The CFL reneged on elements of the new CBA and almost caused a strike

Photo courtesy: Drew Edwards

Saturday night’s alright for fighting.

Canadian football fans across the country were thrown for a loop on Saturday when word leaked out that the CFL and CFLPA hit a snag in CBA ratification and had re-opened negotiations.

The players’ association was in a position to ratify the agreement that came together earlier this week. The deal didn’t include much in the way of new money for players but it featured important inroads in other key areas — improved long-term medical coverage, the start of revenue sharing, and a higher minimum salary in 2020 and beyond.

Sources say the ratification process came to a halt when the CFLPA realized the league had changed the language surrounding some key areas of the agreement.

The players believe it wasn’t an oversight on the part of the league but that it was done intentionally.

The CFL waited until players had travelled to training camp before attempting to alter the language of the agreement. Teams cover the cost of travel, food, and lodging for training camp. In the event of a strike, players would have to pay out of pocket to return home or find lodging on their own. That’s hard to on less than 24 hours notice — especially when players haven’t seen a paycheque in over six months.

The league was banking on the players caving under the pressure of (essentially) being held hostage the night before training camp. That didn’t happen.

The CFLPA set money aside to help players travel home and quickly set out to formally strike ahead of the first day of training camp in B.C., Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, and Montreal on Sunday. Players weren’t legally able to strike in the league’s remaining markets for a few days, though some players were fighting to arrange sit-ins at practice.

Realizing the players’ association was prepared for the possibility of last-minute shenanigans, the CFL caved late on Saturday. The league changed the language of the new CBA agreement back to how it read earlier this week.

Saturday showed an ugly side of labour negotiations. The players’ association should be commended for responding quickly, and ultimately forcing the league’s hand.

Now let’s play some football.