Threat of CFL players strike had ‘motivating effect on the league’: union

The threat of a strike helped the players earn a better deal in CBA negotiations.

Over 97 per cent of the membership voted to take job action if it was required and the PA was ready to strike in two separate waves to meet legal stipulations.

“The league watches, just like any other employer, they want to gauge the support of the membership and if it doesn’t come in with a big number it tells them something. And 97 per cent obviously told them something that we wanted them to see,” CFLPA senior advisor Ken Georgetti said.

“It was important and it certainly had a motivating effect on the league and a stimulating affect on the bargaining committee for the PA. That threat was present and it had an effect on the result of the outcome of this bargaining no doubt about it.”

The CFL and CFLPA reached a tentative agreement on a new collective agreement May 15 but bargaining was re-opened three days later. As the clock neared midnight on May 18 – the deadline for a new CBA to be done – the league and players’ association agreed to a memorandum of understanding, averting a strike. Georgetti downplayed reports that the CFL had tried to change the terms of the deal.

“That’s not unusual. You go from a whole package of notes to writing it into a memorandum of agreement and from time to time you have a differing of opinion on application. This happened quite late in the day this time because we were just on the verge of going out to meet with the members to ratify,” Georgetti said.

“We still have one more process to go through and that is converting that memorandum now into a collective agreement and I’m sure we’ll have some difficulty there. We have the benefit of having a mediator at the end of the process.”

Talks certainly came down to the wire. Ten days from the start of training camp, CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay didn’t believe the CBA negotiations were where they needed to be in order to have a deal done.

“Those comments were made at that time because we weren’t in a position where we felt comfortable and we needed to continue to have those discussions. That time remaining allowed us to have multiple meetings and face-to-face meetings with the CFL and allowed us to get to a position to present a unanimous package for the players to vote on,” Ramsay said.

“In that short time period, I think if you talk to our bargaining committee, that 10-day span or so probably felt much longer with the amount of time involved.”

The CFLPA sent out a memo to all players detailing the terms of the new agreement, which included moderate increases in the salary cap, revenue sharing on new broadcast money and increased protection for injured players just to name a few major items.

“When we look at the unity of the membership, it was evident going back a number of years – I think of the handshake before the Labour Day game in Saskatchewan. If you look at the strength the membership has shown all the way through the various components of the player reps, the active membership, that was evident all the way through,” Ramsay said.

“I believe that allowed the players to find a fair agreement that they can be proud of and one that will allow us to get through 2019 and to the upcoming years before we prepare again.”

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