Former CFL player turned TV analyst Henry Burris says he doesn’t believe the league and the players will get a new collective bargaining agreement hammered out by the time training camps are set to open on May 19.

Speaking to TSN radio in Ottawa last week, Burris says he believes the league and its owners have deliberately slow-played the negotiations in order to gain leverage over the players.

“This has always been a tactic used by the owners and the league. They really try and stretch things out,” Burris said. “Now it’s really getting down to crunch time where the owners like to back the players into a corner, where they make the players so desperate that they have to sign something just so they can provide food on the table for their families because they think a lot of guys aren’t prepared for that.

“Well, this year it’s a much different story.”

With the current CBA set to expire the day before training camps open, May 18, the CFLPA has advised players not to show up unless a new deal is in place. Meanwhile, the CFL has said that players in five cities are not in a legal strike position and that teams will issue suspensions if they don’t show up for training camp.

“This is the most together I’ve seen the union, the most outspoken in my 20 years,” he said. “The players are definitely together as one now. You definitely see the solidarity. Players aren’t budging this year.”

In talking with players around the league, Burris says money and player safety are a common theme. The case of Jonathon Hefney, the former Winnipeg Blue Bomber and Montreal Alouette who was injured in a game against Burris’ Redblacks in 2015 keeps coming up.

“He’s been having to pay for medical bills because the medical coverage from the league has subsided. Now he has this ailment that he has to deal with and he should have coverage every step of the way,” Burris said.

On the issue of salaries, Burris says that players like Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly will always get their money but it’s the guys at the bottom of the scale that need to be looked after.

“For Americans coming up making $53,000 Canadian, by the time they go home they are making $20,000 USD. That’s not good. Guys aren’t going to make that decision,” Burris said.

“If we’re going to invite guys up and make them feel welcome, we need to raise that minimum and give players their worth, make them feel like there’s an opportunity to grow instead of just a couple of guys on each team.”

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