CFL players report to work after rejecting tentative agreement

The CFL is experiencing just the second work stoppage in league history and first since 1974. (Nick Iwanyshyn/CP)

The CFL and CFL Players’ Association were back talking Tuesday after players rejected the latest contract offer from the league.

On Monday night, the players voted against ratifying a tentative agreement that had been reached by the league and union. The CFLPA had recommended acceptance of the seven-year contact to its membership.

But players were back at practice Tuesday — reportedly under terms of the previous CBA, which was negotiated before the 2019 season and expired May 14 — as all nine CFL teams continued with training camp. And according to two sources, the league tabled a new proposal to the union Tuesday morning.

The two sources said the new offer included an increase in the salary cap along with a ratification bonus. The bonus is something that’s pretty standard in collective bargaining but it still must be negotiated.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity as neither the CFLPA nor the CFL have commented publicly about the players’ vote. On Monday night, though, the union issued a memo to its members stating, “There is currently not enough support from the CFLPA membership to ratify the most recent offer from the CFL. The CFLPA has communicated with the league that a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) can be achieved if the league is prepared to resolve the outstanding issues quickly.”

The league and union reached the tentative agreement Wednesday, four days after players with seven of the league’s nine teams went on strike. It marked just the second work stoppage in league history and first since 1974.

Players with the Edmonton Elks and Calgary Stampeders reported to the start of training camp May 15 because they were not then in a legal strike position due to differences in Alberta’s labour laws.

But time is of the essence as the CFL exhibition schedule is slated to open Friday night. The Toronto Argonauts are to visit the Ottawa Redblacks while the Winnipeg Blue Bombers entertain the Edmonton Elks.

Winnipeg president Wade Miller, for one, is hopeful the Bombers’ contest will go ahead.

“We are optimistic that Friday’s pre-season game will be played as scheduled,” Miller was quoted as saying in a tweet released by the Bombers. “Once we have further information, we will provide you with more details.”

The Calgary Stampeders are equally as hopeful their exhibition game Saturday night versus the B.C. Lions would be played.

“We are optimistic that Saturday’s pre-season game will be played as scheduled,” Stampeders president/GM John Hufnagel said in a tweet released by the club. ”Once we have further information, we will provide Stamps fans with further details.”

The bonus was one reason for the players’ rejection of the tentative deal but at the crux of their decision was the CFL wanting to increase the number of Canadian starters from seven to eight. But that would include a nationalized Canadian — an American who has spent either five years in the CFL or at least three with the same team.

In addition, three other nationalized Canadians could play up to 49 per cent of all snaps on either side of the ball

“Let’s be clear it’s all about the Ratio!” Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence tweeted Tuesday. “They want us to go on strike together to hurt American players that choose to make there football team and community a priority which also creates same team continuity.

“So fans can feel safe getting there favourite players jersey … And have the fans fall in love with a player like Hamilton did a Simoni Lawrence or like a Calgary did Bo Levi so on so on.”

The tentative deal also featured increases to the CFL salary cap ($100,000 annually starting next year) and minimum salary (from $65,000 to $75,000 by 2027). It also included a revenue-sharing formula for the union and gave players a chance to have the final year of their contracts guaranteed up to 50 per cent.

And while the CBA called for a return to padded practices — one hour weekly during the regular season to a maximum of 12 — it extended medical coverage for retired players to five years from three.

Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie didn’t address the CFL’s labour situation when he spoke with the media Tuesday. But he didn’t hide his displeasure regarding his club’s play during its three-hour practice session that day.

“The fact that we were on the field was productive, that was about it,” Dinwiddie said candidly. “I thought our defence had some good energy late and had a decent practice.

“Offensively we were awful … I wasn’t very happy with the performance and the effort.”

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.