On Thursday, Major League Soccer and the Major League Soccer Players Union announced that they will continue negotiating for a new collective bargaining agreement until February 12, implicitly agreeing to twelve days of working under an expired bargaining agreement, should no accord be reached in the interim.
While it is good news that the relationship between the two sides is amicable enough to not only agree to prolonged negotiations but also come together to keep the public informed, the extension changes little.
The collective bargaining agreement still expires after January 31.
Had this extension of negotiations not been reached, the sides would be in the same situation as they will be on February 1: in need of an agreement. Before, a February 1 lock-out or strike was unlikely. Now, it seems a near-guarantee that neither will happen before February 13.
The owners had little incentive to lock-out the players so soon. A work stoppage is a public relations problem for both sides. The longer each could go without initiating one, the better.
The owners would almost assuredly have to lock-out the players before the season started (else, they give the players the leverage to initiate a work stoppage when circumstances best suit them). The lock-out was not going to come February 1. It was only slightly more likely to come February 12.
The owners would have most likely locked-out at the latest point possible, before the season started, that would still give the players time to capitulate in time for the regular season. My best guess: it would have been late February.
I say “would,” but I really should say “could.” In terms of the negotiations’ timing, little has changed, today. We received a sign that progress is being made and, as important, the relationship between the sides is productive. We also received notion that each side is acutely aware of the need to keep the public informed and optimistic. “Don’t worry,” is what the extension implies.
“We’re probably going to get this done.”
While there is no reason to be more pessimistic, and it’s reasonable to assume significant progress has been made, this is no reprieve.