There has been a rift between the Professional Referee Organization and the Professional Soccer Referees Association, which may threaten the 2014 MLS season. PRO is responsible for managing the officiating program on behalf of MLS and the US Soccer Federation, while PSRA is the referees’ union.
“I am not as optimistic as I would like to be,” PRO general manager Peter Walton told the Washington Post’s Steven Goff. “We have come to a number of tentative agreements in many areas. We are some distance apart on our economics, but I don’t think the slowness will impact the season.”
“We are still hopeful to reach an agreement before the regular season begins,” said Steve Taylor, lead negotiator for the PSRA. “We’ve made progress on non-economic issues and we’ve done good work together, but we’re now down to economic issues.”
Wednesday’s talks come a week after the PSRA filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board. According to Goff, the PSRA claims PRO failed to respond to several information requests; engaged in “regressive bargaining by withdrawing a number of tentative agreements without good cause;” failed to “bargain in good faith;” and was not available for meetings.
The possibility of a strike by the PSRA is in order. That means that MLS will need to use less-experienced officials that work in the NASL, USL PRO and NPSL for their matches.
“We are so much more organized now than we were then,” Taylor added. “We hope it doesn’t come to that, but we are unified and ready to take a stand in order to accomplish the goal of creating a fair set of working conditions, which includes compensation, for our members.”
Also on the cards is a new labor deal for the players, as the collective bargaining agreement between MLS and the players’ union expires after 2014. The talks on a new deal will be ongoing to prevent a work stoppage in the 2015 season.