TORONTO — Brian Ramsay isn’t painting a very positive picture regarding the state of contract talks between the CFL and CFL Players’ Association.
Ramsay emerged from three days of meetings Wednesday saying the two sides aren’t “necessarily where we need to be right now,” with the current agreement set to expire May 18. The CFL and CFLPA will resume face-to-face talks Sunday and have scheduled three straight bargaining sessions through Tuesday.
“Our goals as players have not changed,” said Ramsay, the union’s executive director. “We’re looking for a fair and equitable deal that represents the needs players have brought up for a number of months now.
“We’re getting pressed up against time. We said last week there’s urgency and the fact we’re talking again right now about that, there’s even more urgency now … we’ve got to get some work done.”
CFL officials again weren’t available for comment and the union maintained its stance of not getting into specifics. However, the two sides have started discussing monetary items and there’s persistent talk they remain far apart on many fronts.
“It’s bargaining so they go up and down,” Ramsay said regarding the current mood of talks. ”I think there’s a lot of things still being discussed.
“I think there’s a lot of things we need to continue to work on to find a fair and equitable deal.”
If the unflattering optics regarding the state of talks create concern and angst among football fans, CFLPA president Jeff Keeping said he can certainly understand that.
“We share their concern,” he said.
So the question remains: Is there enough time for the CFL and its players to bridge the gaps and secure a new deal in time?
“I think if you have two sides that want to work together to find a solution there’s plenty of time,” Ramsay said. “We’ve made ourselves available on the weekend and into next week and our goal is to make a solution to this.”
CFL training camps are scheduled to open May 19. The CFLPA has recommended its players not report if a new CBA hasn’t been reached and last month players gave their bargaining unit a 97.3 per cent strike mandate.
However, players in Ontario (Hamilton, Toronto and Ottawa) and Alberta (Edmonton and Calgary) reportedly won’t be in a legal strike position once camps open, a fact the CFL informed all players. The union has also stated it didn’t intend to work past May 18 unless a new deal was agreed upon.
“There are certain provincial labour codes that we’re going to ensure we follow so we’re in a legal position, if necessary,” Ramsay said. “But again our goal is to find a solution to this.”
Contract talks in 2014 between the CFL and CFLPA were testy. Negotiations broke down several times and there was even a threat of a players’ strike before players ultimately reported to camp and a five-year agreement was hammered out.
Keeping was involved in those talks but sees no similarities this time around.
“I know the closer we get to the deadline, everyone’s priorities and motivation should come to the forefront,” he said. “Hopefully, if that’s what it takes, that’s when we get closer to a deal.
“Our guys want nothing more than to be on the field, that’s what they’re training for every day. We’ve committed to working hard on their behalf to get a deal they can be proud of too.”
CFL players have gone on strike once, in 1974, but the situation was settled prior to the start of the regular season.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press