By Jennifer N. Graham, Esq.
NFL referees received a standing ovation in Baltimore as they returned to the field for the Baltimore Cleveland matchup on Thursday after the NFL and the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA), the union that represents on field officials, agreed to the terms of a new eight-year collective bargaining agreement late Wednesday.
The three-month lockout wreaked havoc on the League, as inexperienced officiating led to numerous controversial calls and arguable victories during the first three weeks of season play. Several coaches, including New England coach Bill Belichick, were fined for interactions with the replacement officials after disputed calls.
Peter Donatello and Scot Beckenbaugh of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service aided the parties in reaching the agreement. It is the longest agreement with game officials in NFL history.
NFLRA membership must ratify the document. The officials will meet Friday and Saturday to vote on the agreement.
Highlights of the agreement include:
• Eight year term--2012-2019 seasons.
• The current defined pension plan will remain in effect for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.
• Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement.
• Increase in officials' compensation from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.
• Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring some officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.
Complete details of the agreement are available at: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000066739/article/nfl-nflra-reach-eightyear-agreement