As a follow up to our last blog post in which we evaluated the BATNAs (best alternatives to a negotiated agreement), or Plan Bs, for the City of Chicago and their striking teachers, let’s take a look at another great example – the ongoing NFL referee lockout.
The National Football League locked out its officials in June when their collective bargaining agreement expired. Rather than sign a new agreement, the NFL chose their BATNA – to use replacement officials for the preseason and now the first three weeks of the season. While there have been complaints about the quality of officiating, the season has occurred as scheduled and fan interest in the league, in all likelihood helped by the controversy, remains high.
The NFL has a strong advantage here because the officials’ BATNA is to lose the work. While most hold other jobs and could likely referee in other less attractive venues, their downside – losing income – is greater.
The NFL’s advantage has declined this week as complaints about poor officiating intensify. On Sunday, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was involved in a much-reported post-game incident with an official. On Monday, a controversial call decided the outcome of the Packers-Seahawks game. Also, the Players’ Association sent a letter to team owners requesting an end to the lockout claiming replacement officials create an unsafe working environment.
The NFL’s advantage could weaken further if poor calls affect the outcome of more games or result in injured players. On the other hand, the officials may feel the pinch from their lost income and compromise.
Once again, the bottom line for us is to always evaluate your and your counterpart’s Plan B (what will happen if a deal doesn’t get done). And then only take the deal on the table if it’s better than your best Plan B.