SYDNEY, May 23 (Reuters) - Australia’s National Rugby League referees have withdrawn their industrial action after reaching an agreement with the governing body over the use of just one on-field match official this season.
The referees union had said on Friday they would turn up for the relaunch of Australia’s most popular winter sport next week but were still pursuing a hearing at the Fair Work Commission, which was due to start on Saturday.
The NRL, however, said late on Friday they had reached an agreement with the union, who withdrew their claim at the Commission - Australia’s industrial mediation service - for the time being. “This is an excellent outcome for the game and all its stakeholders,” Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V’landys said in a statement.
“It was heart-warming to see their (the referees) desire that nothing stands in the way of the 28th May commencement of our great game and they want to be an integral part of its success.”
The NRL, which has used two on-field referees since 2008, had proposed using just one when the season resumed to cut costs as professional sports grapples with the financial fallout from the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The Professional Rugby League Match Officials (PRLMO), however, objected and claimed their complaint was about player safety and “fair and real consultation” with the NRL.
The agreement guarantees a minimum of 22 full-time referee positions for the next two seasons and allows for a review of the one referee system by a cross-party working group.
“We are pleased that we have a solution that gets us all to the end of this season,” PRLMO chairman Silvio Del Vecchio said in a statement.
“It is a constructive sign that the NRL have agreed to do this on a trial basis until the end of the year.” (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)