CFL to submit new contract offer to players’ association, sources say
The CFL and the CFL Players’ Association will have at least a starting point on Wednesday when they resume contract talks.
According to league sources, the CFL will table a new offer to the union on Wednesday morning. It will be the first meeting between the two teams since Thursday, when the CFLPA rejected a league proposal for a 10-year deal with no salary cap increases that also eliminated the Canadian ratio.
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The sources spoke on condition of anonymity as neither the union nor the league released specific details regarding the offer. But time is running out as the current collective bargaining agreement _ which was negotiated ahead of the 2019 season and amended last year to allow for a shortened 14-game campaign _ is due to expire on Saturday.
CFL training camps are set to open on Sunday with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers visiting the Saskatchewan Roughriders on May 23 in the first exhibition game. CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay and union president Solomon Elimimian said Friday the players would not report to camp without a new agreement in place.
CFL teams responded by informing players that everyone attending camp will be housed and fed by franchises in the event of a legal strike. The league’s players walked off the job once, in 1974, but the situation was resolved before the start of the regular season.
The league and the union have three negotiating sessions scheduled for this week, but could continue to discuss until Saturday if an agreement is reached or if significant progress is made.
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Last week, CFL players gave their union a 95% strike vote. However, if the CFTPA called a work stoppage on Sunday, not all teams could participate immediately because provincial labor laws differ across Canada.
For example, the Alberta Labor Relations Board lists many requirements on its website for unions to organize a legal strike. They include:
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- A collective agreement must have expired.
- The parties must enter into collective bargaining.
- A cooling-off period of 14 days must elapse after the mediation.
- A labor board-supervised strike vote (unions) or lockout poll (employers) must be held and a majority of voters must accept the strike or lockout.
- One party must serve the other (and the mediator) with 72 hours’ notice before the start of the strike or lockout.
On the face of it, the fact that the CFL is filing a new proposal is a positive sign, if only because it gives both sides new and different parameters to discuss and possibly tweak. What will be very interesting to see, however, is if the CFL broke its original agreement and if so, how far?
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In a memo to its members, the CFLPA outlined the details of the offer it rejected. They included:
- A 10-year deal with no salary cap increases. That figure was $5.35 million last season
- A revenue-sharing program, according to the union, “is not likely to show significant growth on its own, until the TSN contract is renewed in five years.”
- Earlier in the negotiations, the two sides talked about guaranteed contracts, but “the CFL has now withdrawn the Palestinian Authority’s proposal to allow players to negotiate guaranteed contracts.”
- The league wanted teams to return to padded workouts, “even with a 35% decrease in on-field injuries, but refuses to support our proposal for coverage for those same on-field injuries.”
- The elimination of the Canadian ratio and the American veteran ratio as well as a reduction in the number of Canadians on the list. Under the current deal, CFL rosters must include 21 Canadians, seven of whom must be starters.
After formal talks ended Thursday, the CFL and CFLPA held informal talks ahead of Wednesday’s session. For some, this might be seen as an encouraging sign, but often in collective bargaining, the two parties continue to talk between scheduled meetings.
This is the fourth consecutive year that the league and the union have met. After working out the current ABC ahead of the 2019 season, they came together in 2020 to amend the deal for a shortened season that didn’t happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the league and the CFLPA did just that last year, laying the groundwork for the CFL’s return to play.
And 2020 should serve as a painful reminder to both the CFL and the CFLPA of the economic hardship a work stoppage could bring. Players went unpaid that year, as inactivity cost the league between $60 million and $80 million.
For many CFL teams, however, business is business as usual with rookie camps set to open Wednesday. But not the Montreal Alouettes, whose first practice is scheduled for Sunday.
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