With the current NFL collective bargaining agreement set to expire at midnight on March 3, just one week from today, the NFL and the NFL Players Union remain locked into labor negotiations with a federal mediator assisting in the process. The meetings, now in their seventh and final day, have seen key labor leaders such as Commissioner Roger Goodell, and NFLPA Exec. Director DeMaurice Smith attending the meetings, but no agreement has been reached.
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) was approached by the NFL and NFLPA when the sides could not, on their own, reach a peaceful negotiating process. FMCS Director George H. Cohen has been assigned to mediate the sides, and released a statement today on the progress.
“Our time together has been devoted to establishing an atmosphere conducive to meaningful negotiations and, of course, matters of process and substance. I can report that throughout this extensive period the parties engaged in highly focused, constructive dialogue concerning a host of issues covering both economics and player-related conditions,” Cohen said. “The tenor of the across-the-table discussions reflected a noteworthy level of mutual respect even in the face of strongly held competing positions. The parties met both in full committee and in subcommittees where discrete, technical issues lent themselves to smaller groups.”
But while Cohen described the process as respectful, he highlighted that the key issues preventing resolution of a new CBA have yet to be resolved.
“At bottom, some progress was made, but very strong differences remain on the all-important core issues that separate the parties,” Cohen said through the statement. “Nonetheless, I recommended and the parties have agreed to resume the mediation process in my office commencing next Tuesday (March 1). During the intervening weekend, the parties have been asked by us to assess their current positions on those outstanding issues.”
Cohen did not go into details as to what the “all-important core issues” were, but the main items that the NFL is seeking is an additional $1 billion on top of the current $1 billion owners take off the top of league revenues to invest in new stadium or current stadium renovations, a rookie-wage scale, and an 18 game regular season. The players have asked for the current CBA to be extended, while looking into more benefits for retired players.
The NFL and NFLPA have, at the request of Cohen, implemented a gag order, preventing the heated rhetoric that had been part of the problem with getting the parties to sit down and negotiate from happening in earnest. Cohen, through today’s statement, said that as the meetings continued on March 1, the same order should be implemented, and according to him, would continue.
The NFL Scouting Combine is taking place in Indianapolis, and ends on 3/1, just two days before the current NFL collective bargaining agreement ends. Owners could lock the players out as early as March 4 setting up a work stoppage in North America’s most popular and lucrative sports league.
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