Executive members of the CFL Players Association, Brian Ramsey and Solomon Elmian, have confirmed that Friday’s players will not report to training camp next week without a fair and equitable collective bargaining agreement.
Ramsay, the union’s executive director, and Alemian, the CFLPA president, spoke with reporters a day after talks with the CFL broke down. The two sides are scheduled to meet again until Wednesday, giving them three days before the current agreement expires.
Training camps are set to open on Sunday, and Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, is set to begin the preparatory season on May 23.
“We have made it clear that we will not reach the training camp without a new and fair collective agreement before the current agreement expires,” said Elimian. “We are ready to get a fair deal… at this time we have little confidence that the CFL will match us with a fair deal.”
Ramsey added: “Our goal is to try to get a deal but we were very clear from the start that we wouldn’t go into training camp without this fair deal. We have advised our members to speak to their clubs, to postpone those trips back as long as possible in the hope that we can come to an agreement. right on time “.
Ramsey added that the Canadian Football League had informed the union that players who arrive at training camp before the strike will be responsible for covering the costs of their travel home if an outage occurs.
Contract talks collapsed on Thursday after the league rejected the league’s proposal for a 10-year deal with no salary cap increase and the Canadian ratio scrapped. In a note to its members, the CFLPA said that while the association and the university “have been able to find common ground on a number of issues,” several key issues remain.
The note included:
• A 10-year agreement with no increase in the maximum salary. This figure was $5.35 million last season
• Revenue-sharing program mandated by the union “It is not likely to show any significant growth with CFL’s own approval, until the TSN contract is renewed in five years.”
• Earlier in the negotiations, the two parties talked about secured contracts, but “the CFL has now canceled the PA’s proposal to allow players to negotiate secured contracts.”
• The league wants teams to return to lined practices, “even with a 35 per cent drop in injuries on the field, yet it refuses to support our proposal to cover up the same injuries on the field.”
• Abolishing the Canadian percentage and the American veteran percentage, as well as reducing the Canadians on the list. In the current agreement, CFL rosters must include 21 Canadians, seven of whom must be beginners.
“With their latest proposal, the Canadian Football League threatens to fundamentally change Canadian football,” Elmian said. “This worries our negotiating team and our membership and the position of the CFL should be a concern for fans and league partners as well.
“The latest proposal from the CFL makes the game less safe, less competitive and desirable, provides less stability, and rejects the important role of players as essential partners in the growth of the game. It makes it less Canadian.”
On Friday, the association issued two statements on social media, the second of which dealt with the issue of establishing a partnership with the players.
“We are deeply committed to a long-term and mutually beneficial partnership with our players,” she said. “It was true when this bargaining process began and it will be true when we reach a collective bargaining agreement and beyond.”
Two hours earlier, the Canadian Football League had tweeted: “Canadian players are the lifeblood of the CFL game, along with veteran American players making their careers here. That won’t change.”
The NHL Players Association took to social media Friday to offer its support for the CFLPA.
“The NHLPA stands in solidarity with the CFLPA to support their efforts to achieve a fair and just CBA with the CFL,” she tweeted.
This is the fourth year in a row that the CFL and its players have met. After drafting the current CBA ahead of the 19 season, they met in 2020 to amend the agreement for a short season that did not happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the two teams made it through last year, leading to a return to the field in a 14-game campaign. After a friendly start to these discussions, the negotiations again turned into a feud despite constant assurances from Commissioner Randy Ambrosi of the league’s desire to partner with the players.
“After two years of unimaginable uncertainty, the CFL’s current negotiating position reflects neither partnership nor fair opportunity, both of which are of paramount importance to our membership in the CFLPA,” Ramsey said. “We have received a strong strike mandate from our members (95 per cent) and unless the CFL is quickly brought back to the table with a reasonable package that recognizes the value players provide, protects their safety and provides adequate job protection, we will be forced into this uncertainty.
“We don’t feel right now that the partnership the league has asked us to enter into is the kind of partnership we’d be comfortable with if that was the proposal now on the table.”
CFL players went on strike once, in 1974, but the situation was settled before the start of the regular season.
“Shutting down at the moment is not what we had in mind all the way,” Ramsey said. “Now, we will make sure that we are prepared to protect our membership… but we have been in these conversations from the start in an effort to find a fair settlement.
“I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to stop working, but right now we’re getting close to a fair settlement and that’s not in the best interest of our members.”
Four years ago, contract talks between the CFL and CFLPA were also a test. Negotiations broke down several times and there was a threat of a blow before the players finally reached camp and the parties reached a five-year agreement.
But Hamilton Tiger Cats linebacker Simone Lawrence, entering his 10th season in the Canadian Football League, took to social media to offer some advice.
“Keep your cool,” he wrote on Twitter. “I’ve seen this happen over and over again.”
This report was first published by The Canadian Press on May 6, 2022.