The CFL and its players’ association are squaring up for another round of collective bargaining negotiations, but this time there is a much more positive feeling behind the scenes.
The CFLPA filed written notice to officially begin CBA discussions last week, but newly elected union vice president Adam Bighill believes that this process won’t be nearly as contentious as in years past.
“At this point I’m not concerned, I don’t anticipate it to be overly combative. There’s going to be willingness to get a deal done on time,” Bighill told Paul Friesen in an interview with the Winnipeg Sun.
“It’s time to get back to a normal season and create that normal environment everyone’s used to.”
The existing collective agreement between the CFL and CFLPA was ratified prior to the 2019 season and it was amended prior to the 2021 season to help facilitate a safe return amid the pandemic. The current agreement expires on May 14, the day before training camps are scheduled to open across the league.
The collective bargaining process begins with a notice to bargain, which is a written notification given by either the employer or the union requiring the other party to commence bargaining for the purpose of renewing or revising a collective agreement or entering into a new collective agreement.
The star Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ linebacker and reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player is new to the CFLPA’s board of directors, but this is far from Bighill’s first rodeo when it comes to union negotiations. In the past, they’ve been alleyway fist-fights, eroding trust between the players and the league, but signs indicate 2022 could be different.
“We’ve been able to get some financials over this last year that before was like pulling teeth, so things are trending the right way. You do get a sense that they want to do things different,” Bighill explained.
“It’s too early to tell, but… I’m very optimistic that this bargaining will be better in a number of different ways.”
The tumult of the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the old foes into closer alignment and Bighill believes the league is in solid shape overall, with several key issues to improve upon. Both sides have a desire to lessen player movement under one-year contracts and will be working towards that goal.
The new rosy outlook hasn’t made players weak, however. The CFLPA will be ready for a strike if it comes to it and the silver lining of the canceled 2020 season is their membership is more prepared for the worst case scenario than ever before.
“Guys put some plans in place, found jobs, some found careers… they found a way to take care of their families. That strengthened our membership considerably,” Bighill said.
“Not saying anyone wants a work stoppage, because we absolutely don’t. But it definitely has strengthened the ability of our players to see beyond football.”