CFL, CFL Players Association to resume collective bargaining talks next week

The current collective bargaining agreement expires May 18

New CFL balls are photographed at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium in Winnipeg Thursday, May 24, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

Contract talks between the CFL and its players are back on again.

Both the CFL Players’ Association and league confirmed Monday they’ll resume contract talks next week. The two sides will gather in Toronto next Monday and Tuesday.

“The hope is that the CFL is coming back to the table with the intention to find a solution to the expiring agreement,” Brian Ramsay, the executive director of the CFLPA, said in a statement. “We remain steadfast that we want an agreement that is fair, reasonable and grows the game of football in Canada.

“CFL players and fans deserve nothing less.”

The league and players last met April 9 in Vancouver to conclude two days of talks. The following day, Ramsay told reporters the CFL had unilaterally decided to delay negotiations until next Monday, at the earliest.

Ramsay said the CFLPA was told the league had ”other priorities” to take care of before it could resume negotiations.

READ MORE: Vancouver veteran CFL official Dave Hawkshaw receiving officiating position with NFL

The current collective bargaining agreement expires May 18, with training camps scheduled to open the following day. Rookies and quarterbacks are scheduled to report May 15.

Following the delay in contract talks, the CFLPA recommended to its players they forego reporting to training camp if a new collective bargaining agreement hasn’t been reached by then. The union also said it didn’t intend to work past May 18 unless a new deal was agreed upon.

The two sides continue to negotiate non-monetary items.

The union’s recommendation has met with support by a number of prominent players, most notably quarterbacks Mike Reilly of B.C. and Bo Levi Mitchell of Calgary. They signed the two richest deals in free agency — Reilly a four-year, $2.9-million with the Lions and Mitchell a four-year contract reportedly worth $2.8 million to remain with the Grey Cup-champion Stampeders.

Other players of note to publicly support the CFLPA’s recommendation include running backs James Wilder Jr. of the Toronto Argonauts and Andrew Harris of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and defensive linemen Ted Laurent of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Odell Willis of B.C.

The biggest bone of contention the players have with the league is its decision not to pay off-season bonuses until after a new agreement has been ratified.

Talks formally began March 11-12 in Toronto. The CFL and CFLPA had met twice a week over a five-week span before the delay.

There are reports the CFLPA will hold a strike vote Wednesday. However, even it the players voted overwhelmingly in favour, it wouldn’t mean a work stoppage was imminent.

Such votes are normal protocol in collective bargaining. They’re usually done to show solidarity and provide the bargaining committee with a strike mandate as a sign the membership is serious about its demands in contract talks.

In this instance, it’s also a step in ensuring the various provincial laws are satisfied in the event a work stoppage is necessary. But Ramsay reiterated the union’s goal remains reaching a fair deal that works for both parties.

“We already a have clear overwhelming mandate and this vote is to satisfy provincial legislation and the various labour codes across the country,” Ramsay said. “The CFL’s position has been extremely aggressive and unnecessary, including withholding our members’ 2019 salaries to date.

“What has not changed is the players’ desire to seek a collective agreement prior to the start of 2019 season. We have stated on the record we are available to meet with the CFL at any time.”

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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