NFL Officials Ratify Contract

Thursday, September 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ The NFL's regular officials will be back Sunday as the FL restarts its season, in large measure because most realized that their labor dispute was petty compared to what the nation has been through.

The 119 officials, locked out in August after failing to come to terms with the league on a new contract, ratified by about a 2-1 margin Wednesday a deal that will give them an immediate 50 percent pay increase.

The most obvious reason the lockout ended: the same terror attacks that caused the league to call off last week's games.

``You can't ignore the occurrences around the country and the fact that our concerns were pale in comparison,'' said Tom Condon, the lead negotiator for the officials. ``So we thought it was important to get back for the restart of the season.''

But it was a cumbersome process.

A deal was struck Sunday night in Pittsburgh. It was negotiated for the union by Bill Carollo, executive director of the NFL Referees Association, and Jeff Bergman, and for the NFL by Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney and Jeff Pash, the league's lead negotiator.

It was an interesting mix politically _ Bergman and Carollo were considered the most conciliatory of the four-member union negotiating team, and Rooney has often been the owner brought in to settle labor disputes by the NFL. The negotiators said they consulted with Ed Hochuli, who had headed the negotiating team, and was considered the hard-liner in the group.

The deal is the same in total monetary value as the package proposed by the league on Sept. 4, although the specifics are different. It would increase salaries by 50 percent in the first year and by 100 percent in the fourth year of a six-year deal.

The officials missed two weeks _ the last one of preseason games and the first week of the regular season. Replacement officials, who are guaranteed four weeks' salary at $2,000 a week, worked the final week of the preseason and the first games of the regular season without any game-turning bad calls.

The talks had been going on sporadically since the previous contract expired last March.

Condon said he felt the union did the best it could.

``There was nothing left at the table for us,'' he said.

Condon also was not in on the final deal. He had said for two days that no deal had been agreed to.

On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, however, the union members voted. The officials originally were given a noon Wednesday deadline, but computer problems delayed the vote.