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Lockout looms in AFL

| Friday, June 15, 2012, 11:07 p.m.
A half empty Consol Energy Center watch the Power and Barntormers play April 6, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

The Arena Football League is poised to lock out its players at 6 p.m. Sunday if no agreement is reached this weekend in face-to-face negotiations aimed at achieving a collective bargaining agreement.

“There could be a lockout Sunday,” Power owner Matt Shaner said. “It would be inaccurate to say there absolutely is going to be one.”

Negotiating sessions are planned for today and Sunday. Seven games scheduled for tonight and Sunday are expected to be played. The Power will play the Milwaukee Mustangs tonight at Consol Energy Center.

Shaner said a lockout would mean finishing the season with replacement players, but he believes the sides are getting closer to finalizing a deal.

“We've made a lot of strides, and we are closer than ever to coming up with a long-term CBA,” he said. “Pittsburgh's hope is we want labor peace, and we want to treat the players as well as we can without bankrupting the league.”

AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz declined to comment.

Arena Football League Players Union executive director Ivan F. Soto said the league has indicated to him that it is considering a lockout.

“We take the league's threats seriously,” he said. “But we also understand what this would do to the league. In our opinion, their threat of a lockout and/or possible cancelation of the season would create a situation where the league would not be viable.

“(We) are hopeful that we are close enough and will be closer or near complete by (Sunday) where work stoppages and lockouts aren't going to be valuable to either side.”

The union revealed its counter offer to a final league proposal issued earlier this week.

Key elements of the union deal include:

• Salaries starting at $875 per game in 2013, with a $75 food allowance, and salary increases topping out at $1,250 in 2017, the final year of the proposed agreement.

• A starting quarterback bonus of $250 per game, plus a $250-per-game bonus for two “highly compensated” players.

• A housing allowance of $150 per week per player provided by the league, with players not required to rent from teams.

• An increase in the roster size from 24 players to 25, with 21 active on game days.

• For the remainder of this season — six games remain — player salaries would be $585 per game, with a quarterback bonus of $1,080. Players now make $400 per game, with quarterbacks getting a $1,275 bonus.

The league's proposal calls for pay starting at $825 per game, an increase of 106 percent from the current wage. It also wants a seven-year agreement through 2019 and game-day rosters reduced from 21 to 19 active players, with inactives increasing from three to six.

Players must pay for their own housing under the league proposal. Currently, players live rent-free during the season in housing chosen by teams.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com.

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