Umpires protesting pay at US Open

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Only half of the world's leading umpires were working Thursday at the US Open as a result of a protest over pay and working conditions imposed on officials at Flushing Meadows.

2011 US Open

2011 US Open

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Steve Ullrich, the most experienced American official -- who was in the chair for last year's men's final -- was among a host of recognizable faces who chose to boycott this year's tournament.

While 24 of tennis' 26 gold-badge officials worked Wimbledon two months ago, only 13 made it to New York.

The grand-slam tournaments have their own teams of officials, who are contracted to work the four majors and International Tennis Federation (ITF) events. It is believed that the US Open offers the lowest levels of pay -- about $250 a day -- of the four slams.

The umpires, who already complain of working longer and more antisocial hours, were told this year that pay would be reduced by 30 percent for tax purposes, an amount they could claim back in their own countries.

A leading official said, "We've heard they spend more on the flower arrangements at the Open than they do on officiating."

The tournament produced an economic benefit of $420 million for New York last year.

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