NFL Refs Get What Most Workers Want: Pensions Untouched, for Now

Like so many other businesses, the league wants to begin transferring to 401(k)s

Ed Hochuli and his fellow refs will be back on the field beginning Thursday night. (AP photo) Ed Hochuli and his fellow refs will be back on the field beginning Thursday night. (AP photo)

We’ve known for some time that longer life spans and a lack of savings will greatly affect the quality of life for baby boomers in retirement. But when it begins to affect officiating in professional football—well, it’s time to do something about it.

The real sticking point between referees and league officials was the National Football League’s desire to begin transferring the officiating personal from defined benefit to defined contribution plans.

Referees objected, and pointed to the amount of revenue generated each year by the gridiron industry in their fight to keep the defined benefit plans. Team owners countered that a very small percentage of part-time employees in the United States are offered any employer–sponsored plans at all—whether a pension or 401(k). The NFL also noted that its office workers had already been moved to the 401(k) model. The debacle with poor officiating by replacement refs ensued.

The New York Times reported late Wednesday night that the NFL reached agreement on an eight-year labor deal with its game officials.

According to the paper, under the terms of the deal, “pensions will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season. New officials will get a 401(k) instead. The average official’s salary will rise to $173,000 in 2013 from 149,000 in 2011.”

Beginning in 2013, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of full-time officials.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds only about one in three part-time employees gets offered a 401(k)-type plan, and less than one in 10 still get a pension like those currently given referees.

Commissioner Roger Goodell came under intense pressure to settle the contract dispute in the wake of a blown call in Monday night’s match-up between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers which handed the Seahawks the win.

 

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