Details are starting to emerge regarding the agreement in principle with the NFL and the NFL Referees Association for the next collective bargaining agreement, and the union is apparently giving a big concession to the league, sources have told Football Zebras.
Most notable, the tentative agreement, which requires a majority vote of all 122 on-field officials, will allegedly place a three-year moratorium on any union grievances against the NFL if any officials are fired due to performance, according to multiple sources familiar with the terms. While there have been a small number of offseason dismissals or apparent involuntary retirements over the last 10 years, this gained particular attention when down judge Hugo Cruz was fired in the middle of last season, an action that has no precedent in the modern era of the NFL. (Sources have stated that Cruz was negotiating a settlement with the league without union assistance, and an e-mail request for comment was not returned.)
There have been attempts in the past to remove officials en masse, such as when Mike Pereira, as the director of officiating in 2003, fired 8 officials allegedly for performance and not meeting physical fitness benchmarks. Most of those officials returned to work in officiating or replay capacities after a grievance was filed by the NFLRA. One of the issues cited at the time was that the terminated officials were not given adequate warnings about their performance.
The officiating staff will gather in Chicago and have scheduled a Saturday morning vote on the collective bargaining agreement to take effect for the 2020 season if approved. The previous 8-year deal, brokered on the backs of a disastrous gambit by the league to use replacement officials during a prolonged lockout in 2012, was set to expire at the conclusion of this season. The meetings to discuss the upcoming deal will be held seven years to the day that lockout ended.
Full terms of the proposed contract were not available, and NFLRA executive director Scott Green declined to discuss the deal. But, one source said there will be “a substantial bump in the game checks” and that the NFL will increase its contribution to retirement plans. In the previous deal, pensions were phased out in favor of 401(k) plans. A year-round officiating staff was approved as an interim agreement with the union in 2017, but was placed on hold for this year; there was no word as yet as to if that is provided in the new agreement.