CFL players are planning to strike in two separate waves if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t reached, the union said on Thursday.
With the current deal with the CFL set to expire on May 18 – the day before training camps are set to open – players in B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec have been instructed not to show up to training camp while players in Alberta and Ontario will have to report due to provincial labour laws.
Those players are expected to go on strike May 23, CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay said on a conference call with members of the media.
“In the four provinces that will be in a legal position we will be on strike and they won’t show up for camp,” Ramsay said. “There will be some teams that, due to provincial labour laws, they will have to [report] and that’s what we’ve instructed the members to do.
“Once they’ve followed the appropriate labour laws, the players in those provinces will be on strike as well.”
That means that veteran players on the B.C. Lions, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes are being encouraged by the union not to attend training camp while players on Edmonton Eskimos, Calgary Stampeders, Toronto Argonauts, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks have been advised by the CFLPA to show up for camp, then go on strike on May 23.
The first pre-season game is scheduled to take place on May 26 with the regular season kicking off on June 6.
Ramsay said the union remains focused on getting a deal done with the CFL but that time is getting short. The two sides just concluded three days of talks in Toronto but aren’t scheduled to meet again until May 12. The league has repeatedly slowed the pace of negotiations, including taking an extended break in April.
“We remain ready to negotiate any day and any time. But we only want to do when we have a fair agreement in place and the needs of the players are recognized and taken seriously,” Ramsay said. “The issue is that we’ve run into nothing but delays from the league side.”
The union declined to get into specifics regarding the issues that still need to be resolved at the bargaining but outlined the general framework the players are looking for.
“A fair partnership is an equitable voice on the growth of the game on the health and safety measures for the game and a feeling that we’re growing and working together,” Ramsay said. “For a number of years, our membership has not been treated equitably. That has to change. It is going to change.”
B.C. Lion fullback Rolly Lumbala said the union remains unified but there’s still plenty of work to be done.
“It’s coming down to the wire,” said Lumbala, an 11-year veteran who is a member of the union’s bargaining committee. “There’s been some progress but there’s going to be major concessions that need to happen on both sides.”