IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) – NFL referees officially ended their labor dispute with the league early Saturday morning with an overwhelming 112-5 vote.
Soon after the ballots were counted, officials headed off to stadiums around the country to be in place to work Sunday’s NFL games.
The lockout lasted 115 days in a dispute over wages and pensions.
“It’s a compromise process,” said Scott Green, president of the NFL Referees Association. “It’s a give and take obviously by our vote, our membership is pretty happy with what we did get.”
The new contract offers higher salaries and a defined benefit pension plan for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years of service.
The referees met in Irving on Friday night to discuss provisions in the latest contract offer from the NFL.
They also discussed the possible creation of referee development squads.
“This is relatively new,” said Tim Millis, the association’s executive director. “I guess our best description of it is, kind of like NFL Europe used to be, where in the spring there were people that they looked at.”
Negotiations began soon after a now infamous botched call made by replacement refs in Monday nights Seattle Seahawks 14-12 win over the Green Bay Packers.
“We were making progress, but yeah, I’d have to say that that definitely had some impact,” Green said.
A crew of NFL refs went back to work Thursday to officiate the Ravens-Browns game with a tentative deal in place.
The crew received a standing ovation from fans.
Green said there was a lesson to be learned in all the controversy.
“If you’re going to be in a professional league, you’ve got professional players, you’ve got top notch coaches, you need professional officials as well,” he said.
Referees said they continued weekly testing on new rules and viewed hours of film each week to stay ready.
“After a 115 day lockout and having to watch football games on tv we are very enthusiastic about getting back to work,” Green said.
The refs will hit the field Sunday.
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