TORONTO — For Jeff Keeping and the CFL Players’ Association, it was a good opening day.
The players and CFL held their first collective bargaining session Monday. The two sides are scheduled to meet again Tuesday.
"It was a good day, it was productive," said Keeping, the CFLPA president. "We had a very thorough discussion.
"This was more about introducing the two groups and laying the groundwork for how we’re going to move forward."
The present agreement is scheduled to expire in May before the start of training camp. That leaves the two sides with roughly two months to reach a deal.
"Yeah, we have enough time," Keeping said. "We just need to get the groups together and keep working."
Senior advisor Ken Georgetti and executive director Brian Ramsay led the union into Monday’s talks as chair and vice-chair, respectively. Keeping, second vice-president Solomon Elimimian, third vice-president Rolly Lumbala, treasurer Peter Dyakowski and player reps John Bowman (Montreal Alouettes), Bear Woods (Toronto Argonauts) and Chad Rempel (Winnipeg Blue Bombers) rounded out the CFLPA’s unit.
Ramsay said it’s important active players be involved in bargaining.
"This is an agreement that’s a player’s agreement," he said. "The more players are a part of that, I think that’s a better thing for everybody involved and we’re going to continue to approach it that way."
The CFL’s bargaining team is again led by Stephen Shamie, the league’s general counsel. Shamie was an integral figure in the 2014 talks with then commissioner Mark Cohon. CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie is expected to participate in the opening bargaining sessions.
Rounding out the league’s player-relations committee are: Scott Mitchell (CEO, Hamilton Tiger-Cats); Roger Greenberg (co-owner, Ottawa Redblacks); Rick LeLacheur (B.C. Lions president); and Wade Miller (Winnipeg Blue Bombers president/CEO).
League representatives didn’t speak after Monday’s session.
Neither Keeping nor Ramsay would divulge specific details regarding Monday’s discussion. All Ramsay said was the two sides spent time face-to-face as well as in their respective groups.
"We won’t be going into any details," Ramsay said. "But the points we’ve talked about before (still) remain important to the players.
"This was a productive start and we’re looking forward to coming back and talking (Tuesday). That’s a positive thing."
The two sides will also determine Tuesday when and where talks will resume. The expectation is the next round of bargaining will shift to Vancouver.
This marks Georgetti’s first collective bargaining experience with the CFLPA, which he joined in 2016. But Georgetti is a former president of the Canadian Labour Congress and has over 35 years of labour relations experience.
Georgetti was elected vice-president of the British Columbia Federation of Labour in 1984 and two years later became the organization’s youngest-ever president. He’s an Order of Canada recipient and was the longest serving president in CLC history.
Keeping is in his second CBA negotiation, participating in 2014 as a CFLPA executive member. Be it in football or labour talks, Keeping said past experience is always beneficial.
"It was a good experience and I’ve learned from it and take some of that into this," he said. "You can learn from wins and losses."
Keeping said Monday was also about the two sides trying to establish lines of communication.
"We’ve got two groups that are extremely passionate about our game and who both feel a shared responsibility to get a fair agreement," he said. "That (communication) is something we’ve been working on as an Association with Randy since he’s come into his position, just improving and keeping lines of communication.
"I think that will help as we go through bargaining."