TORONTO — Brian Ramsay finds it hard to believe the CFL Players’ Association must negotiate adequate rehabilitation for its membership.
The union has launched a campaign to outline what it feels is inadequate therapy for players suffering on-field injuries. Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the CFL and CFLPA, players are covered for 12 months from the date of injury.
The union says that leaves many without long-term assistance for more serious or chronic conditions suffered on the field. Ramsay, the CFLPA’s executive director, added coaches, management and even CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge are all covered under workers’ compensation for any workplace injuries they might sustain.
“I can’t wrap my head around the thought of having to bargain the right to be rehabilitated for injuries sustained in the workplace,” Ramsay said. “I struggle with the fact that this has to be a negotiation.”
Changes can be made to a CBA even after it’s been ratified. Last year, the CFL and CFLPA amended the agreement they reached in 2014 to institute a stronger, more emphatic drug policy.
“The CBA is a live document,” Ramsay said. “But they’ve told us they’re bound by the collective bargaining agreement.
“Rehabilitation and player safety aren’t bargaining chips. But their answer to any question we’ve asked has been, ‘No.’ ”
Ramsay said the last time the two sides met was last month in Regina.
Kevin McDonald, the CFL’s vice-president of football operations, player safety, said the league remains committed to working with the union.
“Player health and safety is a priority for our league,” he said. “We are working with the CFLPA, and we will continue to work with the CFLPA, on player health and safety matters.”
It used to be players could take legal action. But that changed in March 2016 when Arland Bruce III lost the first round of his concussion lawsuit against the CFL in a B.C. court.
The judge ruled the complaint should be heard under the league’s collective bargaining agreement and not as a civil action against the CFL. Bruce’s lawyer, Robyn Wishart, has said she plans to appeal the verdict.
Ramsay said the CFLPA has applied to the Alberta government for worker’s compensation but the CFL has sent a submission against that application. Ramsay added the union has applications ready to go to all other provinces but the ruling in Bruce’s case means the 12-month window that currently exists in the CBA remains the benchmark.
And with the deal set to expire the day before the start of training camp in 2019, it could be for some time. That would be bad news for former CFL player Jonathan Hefney, who suffered a career-ending neck injury in October 2015.
“He’s still in a position where he requires additional surgeries … but has zero coverage, he’s on his own,” Ramsay said. “He’s trying to get the rehab and trying to get a coaching job but can’t because he still can’t lift his right arm.”
Ramsay said Hefney isn’t alone.
“In Ottawa last year, we had a guy who wasn’t properly rehabilitated from an injury he sustained in a game and he couldn’t pass the physical to be a fireman,” Ramsay said. “He fell out of the 12-month window and the obligation is now over … this is a guy who has a young family and chose to live in the city he played in and now he can’t transition to a career after football as a fireman.
“There are things to bargain, I get and understand that, I just don’t think this is something that should be. There’s a solution here and it’s not a hard solution.”