CFL, CFLPA set to open bargaining in Toronto

The CFL and CFLPA are set to begin bargaining in Toronto on Mar. 11 the union said on Thursday.

“We’ll have that first opportunity to sit down and then obviously take some time to digest that first meeting, but we’d anticipate that once the momentum started that both engaged sides will run with that,” CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay said.

“There is plenty of time if it’s the appropriate working relationship.”

The current CBA expires on May 15, ending a five-year agreement that was ratified on June 13, 2014 – nearly a month after the original deadline. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie and the Canadian Football League were waiting for the CFLPA notice to bargain.

“Most people aren’t labour relations experts, but the way the process actually works is that the players will give us a notice to bargain. So the ball is in the players’ court. That’s just the way labour works,” Ambrosie said in late January.

The players say they want respect along with fair treatment from the league while Ambrosie wants to save the CFL’s side of the negotiations for the bargaining table. Ambrosie and the CFL are willing to raise the minimum salary from $54,000 to the $70,000 range.

“It’s a conversation that we gotta have. You look across the league and the standard that is set right now for our players are unacceptable and it’s going to be something that we want to discuss,” Ramsay said.

“It’s very hard at this point to pick a number for a minimum standard, but it’s definitely something that needs to be talked about.”

NHL players receive approximately 50 per cent of league revenues while the NBA is at between 49 and 51 per cent. NFL players get between 46.5 and 48 per cent while the MLB is around 50 per cent. While neither league or the union will confirm the numbers, it’s clear CFL players receive significantly less – and want to change it.

“Yes, we do,” Ramsay said in regards to the percentage of revenue correlating with the salary cap needing to be more in line with other pro sports leagues.

“That’s something that we’re discussing and looking at.”

According to the CFLPA, the league office issued a directive to the teams instructing them not to pay signing bonuses, roster bonuses and report and pass bonuses starting Jan. 1, 2019 – despite the fact that the collective agreement is not slated to expire until May 15 of that year.

“I can say with confidence that if you’re going to withhold payments to a membership that is going to create animosity,” Ramsay said. “That’s definitely not a good way to start showing fair treatment and respect by withholding payments that are already to the membership.”

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