CFL wants to eradicate Canadian ratio in CBA proposal to players’ association

Photo courtesy: CFL

The Canadian Football League Players’ Association has refused a ten-year collective bargaining agreement proposed by the CFL that would completely eliminate the Canadian ratio and see no salary cap increases over that span.

The league’s negotiation committee has been led by Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ chief executive officer and minority owner Scott Mitchell and Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ president Wade Miller. Retired linebacker Solomon Elimimian serves as president of the CFLPA, with Brian Ramsay as executive director.

In a memo to all CFLPA members distributed on Thursday night and procured by 3DownNation, the union revealed it had walked away from the bargaining table after the league issued an ultimatum demanding that players travel to training camp even if a strike becomes imminent.

We are writing to you today to update the membership on the current state of our collective bargaining with the CFL. You will receive an email invitation tomorrow morning for a membership wide townhall scheduled at 2PM Eastern Standard Time.

Although we have been able to find common ground on a number of issues to date, our earlier timing concerns are now coming to surface.

On Monday the 2nd of May, we requested the CFL commit not to require that players arrive the day before the start of Training Camp if a strike is imminent. They refused our request. Presently, the League insists that even if a strike is imminent, players must travel from their homes for a single day before Training Camp begins. The League refuses to provide players’ costs to return to their homes.

The League has threatened our Association with a lawsuit if we were to tell you that a strike is imminent and not travel to Training Camp. Furthermore, the League has put an ultimatum to accept their position on players reporting to camp, or they would refuse to continue negotiations with us. Today’s session stopped before mid day as we refused their offer.

We are nine days away from the expiry of our agreement, and the League has slowed the pace of bargaining and has refused to schedule additional dates for discussion. We have told them repeatedly that we are available and prepared to bargain every day until the contract expires.

In the CFL’s proposal to date, a number of key issues still concern your bargaining committee: 
• A ten-year agreement with zero increases in the cap. 
• A revenue sharing program which will not likely show any significant growth by the CFL’s own accord, until the TSN contract is renewed in five years
• Although earlier discussions around guaranteed contracts were held, the CFL has now removed the PA’s proposal to allow players to negotiate guaranteed contracts.
• The CFL demands our members go back to padded practices, even with a decrease of 35% of on-field injuries, yet refuses to support our proposal for coverage for those same on field injuries.
• Various proposals on the table aimed at what appears to be an effort to try to lock as many players as they can into contracts.
• Full elimination of the Canadian ratio and Veteran American Ratio. As well as a reduction of Canadians on the Roster.  
•  The league wants full discretion on practice time that varies during the week (increasing and decreasing hours). Which will create lack of certainty for members.

Your bargaining committee remains devoted to achieving a fair and comprehensive agreement, and we will keep you informed of our deliberations. 

The existing collective agreement between the CFL and players’ association was ratified in 2019 and amended prior to the 2021 season to help facilitate a safe return under pandemic restrictions. The deal is set to expire on May 14, with the two sides not expected to reconvene until next Wednesday.

On Monday, CFLPA membership voted 95 percent in favour of giving the union permission to strike should an agreement not be reached before training camp. The vote is part of the standard process of collective bargaining, but provides considerable pressure as the deadline looms.

Players took a massive financial hit over the course of the pandemic but appear to be on more trusting footing with the league than in years past, in part due to increased financial transparency. However, the league’s desire to reduce the Canadian ratio and unwillingness to provide financial guarantees has halted negotiations entirely.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.