Q&A: CFLPA discusses the opening CBA negotiations and what’s next

The CFLPA has had a day to look over the proposal received from the CFL after two days of bargaining meetings in Toronto.

Executive director Brian Ramsay says the players’ side was engaged and thorough and approached the talks with the goal of a true partnership with the league in mind.

“I believe we delivered an initial package to the CFL that represents and addresses the needs of our membership. We’ve exchanged contract language proposals with the CFL and we expect to spend some time bargaining contract language specifically which will inform our direction towards a fair and reasonable collective agreement,” Ramsay said.

The former offensive lineman and senior advisor Ken Georgetti discussed the opening negotiations and what’s to come on Wednesday.

Question: Do non-monetary items have anything to do with the roster ratio?

Ramsay: Non-monetary is contract language so if everyone has had a look at the collective agreement you’ll notice that it’s quite a few pages and contains quite detailed language. Where we are right now in bargaining is propose and accepted the proposal of the CFL specifically on all items that deal with the language in the contracts. Accepting their proposal in the sense we’ve been given that proposal to now go back and review on our side, not accepted in the sense of what we’re doing now is going to go back internally and we’ve received this. We’ve received there’s and been able to present ours to them and we’ll now go back and discuss internally before continuing bargaining.

Question: Now that you’ve had time to look over the proposal from the league and digest it, what stands out to you?

Ramsay: We’ve had a little bit of time, we’ve been able to do an initial review. Internally we’re bargaining, we’re at the point where we’re going to continue to talk with our group on our side: the players. And debrief with them. And realize that we’re going to prepare for our meetings Monday and Tuesday. We’re looking at the package that was put in front of the players and we’re preparing to review it in detail and in its entirety.

Georgetti: I was struck by the poise and the professionalism and focus of the players’ association and the bargaining committee. They did a very good job articulating the position of the PA and they were very professional in the way they conducted themselves.

Question: From your backgrounds in labour negotiations, how have the current talks started compared to other experiences you’ve had individually?

Ramsay: From an association standpoint I think Ken’s last comments resonate, that preparedness and engagement of our players and the thoughtful comments coming from our locker rooms, our players and our executive, our bargaining committee has been extremely evident. That investment they’ve made time-wise and commitment-wise is extremely strong and that’s something that as they continue to prepare for this upcoming season and that’s evident when we get back to our hotel in Toronto during the meetings and I see the whole committee in the gym training, they’re extremely focused on their job they have to do and they’re focused on representing the membership to the best of their abilities.

Georgetti: There’s a lot less swearing at the table then I’m used to. Other than that these players they’re experienced in their own right in negotiating contracts because they negotiate their own contracts and understand the cut and thrust of negotiations. What I’m really impressed with is their discipline to stay focused and stay on point when they do it. It’s really refreshing to watch these guys at the table.

Question: What might be on the next bargaining agenda Monday and Tuesday?

Ramsay: It’s going to take some time – we’re in to bargaining now – to get through that contract language and sort of getting away from that non-monetary piece and detailing it as exactly what it is: language in the current contract. It’s going to take some time and sessions and more face-to-face to be able to get through that. We anticipate we’ll remain focused on bargaining that contract language for the short term.

Georgetti: This is just normal process is you spend time on the contract language first and try to whittle your issues down and dispose of as many as you can and when we feel we’ve reached the end of the line there then we’ll move into monetary. It’ll take two or three sessions to finish contract language, arguments and negotiation.

Question: After the non-monetary parts are covered, do you know what the more time-consuming monetary issues could take?

Ramsay: You know that’s going to be a negotiation and that’s going to be part of the bargaining process. We’re trying to get through this contract language as best we can now knowing there will be another aspect to these negotiations. We know inevitably we’re going to get to the spot to start talking monetary items.

Question: Did the league propose a media blackout?

Ramsay: If you’re speaking to the last negotiations, where we are now on this one, we’ve committed and agreed that we won’t be bargaining specifics in the media, but the players feel it’s extremely important and it aligns with our operations over the last number of years to be very open and have these discussions with all the stakeholders in our league. And so we’ll be aware not to go too far into specifics and that sometimes means we’re unable to answer detailed questions when we do this, but what we’re trying to do is make an effort to ensure that we are getting as much information across as we can.

Georgetti: I’m used to the same thing, normally parties agree that they’re going to not canvas specific issues at the bargaining table in the public because the one thing that leads to is people being too cautious in their commentary and you want to be free to have an open dialogue that’s not for attribution.

Question: What was it like being in the same room negotiating with Steve Shamie – the league’s general counsel – for the first time?

Georgetti: He’s a very skilled negotiator. He’s honest and straight forward. He’s really good at his job and he’s got great credentials.

Question: Do you see a path forward to a solution for both sides?

Ramsay: It’s hard to do that because we’re just about 20 hours from getting out of meetings. For the players this has been five years in the making. The thought and goal is to make a fair contract for the players. There’s multiple examples of that, one coming to mind is Jonathan Hefney. It’s a prime example of why the contract needs to be made fair. Jonathan had to crowd fund to pay for his surgeries and we know that is not going to happen again in the CFL.”

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