The Canadian Football League’s contract negotiations with its players have hit some turbulence.
The Canadian Football League Players’ Association says the league has unilaterally decided to delay negotiations. B.C. Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian says by making the move, the league is bargaining in bad faith.
"The same status quo — ‘Shut up and do your job,’ or ‘Shut up and play football’ — we’re not having it any more," said Elimimian, who’s also the CFLPA’s second vice-president.
"And it’s not a deal for me or a deal for the older guys. It’s a deal for the guys coming after us, to make the league better than it is now, and better for the guys that come into the league. That’s our priority."
After two days of talks between the league and its players’ association in Vancouver, Brian Ramsay, the CFLPA’s executive director, said the CFL has set a date of April 29 as the earliest it can resume talks. Ramsay said they were told by the league that it has "other priorities" to take care of in the next two weeks.
"This decision is disappointing and makes tangible progress difficult," Ramsay said on a conference call Wednesday. "It’s disrespectful to the process."
The current collective bargaining agreement expires May 18, the day CFL training camps are scheduled to open. Rookies and quarterbacks are scheduled to report on May 15.
Talks began March 11-12 with non-monetary issues having consumed the majority of negotiation sessions.
The CFL declined comment on the status of negotiations "out of respect for the bargaining process," a league spokesperson said in an email statement.
League commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated repeatedly he’s anxious to form a partnership with CFL players.
A big bone of contention for CFL players is the league instructing teams to not pay them off-season bonuses until after a new agreement is ratified. The CFLPA believes the CFL’s stance is a move to force players into quickly adopting a new agreement. So far, it’s only served to anger players.
"I feel like both sides are trying to get over some distrust, I think it all started with withholding our bonuses," said Elimimian , a perennial CFL all-star and the league’s most outstanding player in 2014. "When you withhold bonuses and some would say try to starve the players, that’s not in my opinion building good trust.
"We want to play, this is what we love to do, it’s not about the money, it’s about passion, our joy, and the connection we have with the fans. So when the league did that … it’s frustrating. Being told by the league that they’re not available to meet for the next couple of weeks, as a player, what’s more important than getting a deal done?"
Is the delay in negotiations another power move by the league and its owners?
"I don’t see it as a positive strategy on their part, all it does from a player’s aspect is (we) keep looking at them in distrust," Elimimian said. "What is more important than getting a deal done for the players and the fans?"
B.C. Lions Duron Carter unleashed several tweets on Wednesday to voice his anger.
"Man, I don’t even understand what we are fighting for anymore… What union/league let’s their members/employees go unpaid for 6 going on 7 months!!!! No lie, who is hiring?!?! I can start tomorrow!!! Got bills to pay???????"
Carter followed that up with: "All this ‘negotiation’ for what? The owners know what is going on… What do we do when they throw that football back the garage and nobody gets to play with it ?????? not like we have Tom Brady and Drew Brees speaking to the Supreme Court ???????"
Carter wrote that the league is drying players out "just like last time, and if the CFL truly cared about the players, they wouldn’t be in this situation.
Elimimian said there’s still distrust around the previous CBA, saying it wasn’t as favourable to the players as it should have been. He believes since an overhaul of its negotiating committee and player rep format, the CFLPA is strong, and the players "are in good hands."
He does believe the two sides will come to an agreement before camps open.
"You can’t go into negotiations and not think the worst, but we hope for the best," he said. "But in my honest opinion, I do feel like we will be playing football for 2019 season, I am hopeful we will be at training camp when training camp opens. So that’s what we keep pushing and working for."