MLS Players’ Association Executive Director Bob Fuse challenged MLS Commissioner Garber’s claims about the ongoing negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement and questioned whether the decision to reopen CBA negotiations was more a matter of expediency than financial necessity.
The MLSPA boss added that the players do not intend to strike unless a new agreement is reached.
Both parties completed negotiations on the cooperation agreement last February, but it has not yet been ratified. When the KOVID-19 pandemic hit in March and the league was shut down, MLS decided to reopen negotiations.
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The agreement was reached last June, but included a force majeure clause that provided that in the event of an economic disaster like the one caused by the pandemic, either party could decide to renegotiate the cost-benefit analysis. If no new agreement is reached within 30 days, either party may terminate the existing agreement.
With COVID-19 vaccine distribution slower than expected, MLS will likely start the season without fans in the stands. Given its reliance on match revenue, MLS was concerned that 2021 would suffer a loss similar to that of 2020, which the league estimated at $1 billion.
A source familiar with the situation added that $725 million of the $1 billion in losses was caused by the pandemic. Therefore, MTSO invoked the force majeure clause and submitted the CBA proposal on February 29, 2008. January at MTSO.
Garber held a conference call with Zoom yesterday and told reporters that negotiations are urgent because there are only 20 days left in the 30-day period. Garber also argued that the MTSO’s current proposal would leave wages unchanged for 2021 and would attempt to recoup dollars by extending the contract for two years and freezing wage increases between 2021 and 2022.
In total, MLS expects to save an additional $100 to $110 million over the life of the cost-benefit analysis. This is in addition to what the MLSPA says is $150 million in concessions from a previous agreement.
The fuss Garber encountered on several fronts. First, negotiations do not have to be completed within 30 days, and there is nothing to prevent either party from continuing negotiations beyond that window. Even if MLS decides to terminate the CBA, the terms of the old agreement will remain in effect until new terms are agreed upon, despite the threat of a lockout.
We certainly will not continue these negotiations indefinitely, Fuss said. At the same time, it’s important that we understand as much as possible what 2021 will look like in terms of being able to have fans in the stadiums, and there are still ways to get that knowledge.
The union quickly rejected the idea that the 30-day deadline was not difficult to meet.
Based on their statements today, we are concerned that MLSPA does not have the urgency to come together and reach an agreement within the 30-day period required by our collective agreement with the players, said MLS President and Assistant Commissioner Mark Abbott.
The schedule for this negotiation period was specifically agreed upon between the league and the players in June. And we made a good, thoughtful and clear offer to facilitate and close a deal as soon as possible and before the expiration of the 30-day negotiation period.
Regarding when the MLSPA might make a counteroffer, Fuss said the MLSPA analysis is ongoing.
Once we have completed the analysis and obtained the necessary data from player management, we will consider how to respond to the proposal, he said.
The fuss also said it was totally misleading and simply untrue to say that the MLS offer would have no impact on players’ salaries in 2021, as players accepted the terms of the last CBA negotiated last June that required them to do so. Notably, wage increases have been frozen from 2020 to 2021, slowing the pace of growth for future seasons.
While it is common for the union to say there will be no wage cuts in 2021, the reality is that concessions have already been made every year in the renegotiated CBA to address the financial impact of the virus, he said. And while the league continues to talk about losses through 2020, the reality is that negotiations for those losses are over. We had these conversations last summer. The players have suffered, and will continue to suffer, significant financial losses equal to a significant portion of these losses.
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A source added that a union analysis of the deal concluded that the amount the union is asking MLSPA to pay is well over $110 million.
The fact is that neither we nor the league has any idea how the pandemic will affect finances for the 2021 season, Fuss said.
Fussie also said the league is demanding a heavy workload from players as the COWID-19 pandemic continues.
MLS] wants the players to continue to do everything they do; they want them to play a full season, they want them to accept that they’re going to be exposed to all the dangers left behind by the virus, they want them to continue to take all the COVID risks out there to make sure they have a full season, he said.
Second, they want the players to give them additional concessions that exceed the value of last year’s concessions. So this is the proposal currently on the table with MLS.
Mr. Fuss suggested that the league and its teams take further cost-saving measures, including reducing discretionary salary costs in 2021. Fuse estimates that 40% of the team’s salary budget falls into this category. This will result in a cap on the salaries of players from foreign leagues.
Teams have and will certainly have the capacity to reduce significant amounts of $1 million to $2 million. The cost to their players, if they deem it necessary because of the economic climate and the losses caused by the pandemic, would be about $500 per team per year, he said.
As for the start of the season, Fuss said MLSPA has not heard of a date for teams to show up for the preseason and said it will likely be difficult to start the season in mid-March, as MLSPA had predicted.
Teams haven’t started planning the preseason yet, which makes me think that won’t happen, Fuss said. At this point we cannot have expectations.
A source with knowledge of the matter added that the league is waiting to meet with MLSPA to communicate its plans.