Believing they have reached an impasse after four months of negotiations with the Canadian Football League, the CFL Players’ Association is recommending its membership proceed with a strike vote, Sportsnet has learned.
The collective bargaining agreement between the league and players expires May 30, on the eve of training camp. And while both sides are scheduled to meet this Thursday and Friday in Toronto, documents obtained by Sportsnet indicate the union is readying itself for a potential labour stoppage.
“It is the position of your Negotiating Committee that the position of the CFL in relation to almost all matters and their refusal to have the cap in some way connected to revenue are unreasonable,” reads an internal memo written by CFLPA President Scott Flory and distributed to all CFL players last Friday. “As a result, we are recommending that the Players proceed with a strike vote.”
Flory, who did not immediately respond to Sportsnet’s request for comment, has previously stated that the union will not play the 2014 season under terms of the expiring CBA, while both sides negotiate.
Sources told Sportsnet that when the two sides broke on May 2, the league, which declined comment for this story, said it would return this week with further input from governors/owners on making progress toward a new economic model.
Since talks began in February, the CFLPA has been steadfast in its pursuit of revenue sharing, something that wasn’t included in the 2010 deal but has existed between the league and the CFLPA in the past. The league’s negotiation committee has not budged from its stance of having a fixed cap.
At the centre of the debate is a new television deal, reportedly worth $40 million this coming season. The current deal is worth $15.3 million.
Last season’s salary cap was $4.4 million and proposals obtained by Sportsnet show the CFL has offered the following when it comes to player compensation:
2014 - $4,500,000.00
2015 - $4,600,000.00
2016 - $4,650,000.00
2017 - $4,700,000.00
2018 - $4,750,000.00
2019 - $4,800,000.00
2020 - $4,900,000.00
2021 - $5,000,000.00
There are several other points of contention. The CFLPA has proposed a minimum annual player salary of $55,000—with a 10 percent increase annually. The league countered with a $46,000 minimum, which caps at $49,000 in 2021.
The union has proposed practice roster players make no less than $1,000 a week (or $18,000 per season). The league has countered with $750/week, but to increase the practice roster size to 12, from seven, and implement “two-way” contracts, making it easier for teams to release players.
The union is also pushing for an increase to post-season playoff share, and a hike to the Grey Cup bonus cheque, which the league has refused.
One area the two sides have come to terms on is the increase in roster size–from 42 to 44 on game day. The extra two spots would be occupied by a non-import and one designated import. The reserve list would drop from four per game to two.
The CFL has proposed an eight-year collective bargaining agreement, double the length of the current deal. The union wants the duration to be “subject to negotiation.”
A source tied to the league, speaking on the condition of anonymity, believes the tactic of the league and its governors/owners is patience—the thinking being that the union will eventually give in once the risk of losing pay is a legitimate possibility.