Will there be a lockout in MLS?

Major League Soccer (MLS) has sent a memo to its teams and staff to give them instructions regarding a possible labor dispute.

According to information released Thursday by the ESPN network, the president and deputy commissioner, Mark Abbott, contacted the clubs in the league a few hours before the deadline set by the MLS for the negotiation of a revised collective agreement. His boss Don Garber had set at midnight (the night of Thursday to Friday) the limit to settle the file with the Players’ Association.

However, the MLS athletes submitted an offer to the opposing camp in the afternoon. Everything provides that the contract binding the parties would be valid until the end of the 2026 campaign, it was indicated in a press release. The Association estimates economic concessions at over $ 200 million, taking into account the agreement reached last June.

If the circuit decides to lock out its athletes, it will be the first labor dispute in its history.

« The deadline of January 29 gives sufficient time to the parties concerned – the league, the clubs and the players – to prepare the next season, one indicated in the text which ESPN obtained a copy. At this point, however, we must have a plan for the possibility that the agreement will be terminated and a business shutdown will occur. We will tell the clubs the rules to follow during any stoppage. « 

Nevertheless, the MLS remains hopeful of reaching a happy ending.

“We want to be clear: our will is to make an agreement and avoid a conflict. However, we have to be prepared if ever we cannot come to an agreement. We fully understand the challenges COVID-19 has created in Canada and the United States, around the world, and within the MLS community. Even though we don’t have to, in the event of a work stoppage, we will continue to provide health insurance and pay for the care of the players and their families. ”

Dead end

The league invoked the force majeure clause provided for in the employment contract on December 29. Used in an economic disaster, it forces the parties to agree on amendments within a 30-day window.

As mentioned by journalist Dave Lévesque of the “Journal de Montréal” on Tuesday, the gamer clan rejected a MLS proposal by submitting a counter-offer on Friday. The MLS thus provided in its offer that the athletes will receive 100% of their salary in 2021, while asking them to extend the employment contract by two years.

The two sides agreed to a new deal shortly before the start of the 2020 season, but the pandemic has complicated the consequences. The deal is due to end in January 2025, so the MLS is demanding that it extend until January 2027.

Due to the pandemic, the MLS suffered significant losses. In 2020, she lost nearly $ 1 billion according to her, including $ 725 million directly related to the crisis.

Normally, training camps must start on February 22 and Day 1 of the regular calendar is April 3.

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