Sides head into crucial CFL collective bargaining meeting

The two sides in the CFL labour negotiations return to the table Wednesday in a pivotal round of talks that could determine whether training camps open on time this weekend. The league and CFL Players’ Association haven’t met since talks broke down last Wednesday when the CFL rejected a union proposal, then publicly revealed details of its last offer in separate letters to players and fans. Training camps are slated to open Sunday.

TORONTO — The two sides in the CFL labour negotiations return to the table Wednesday in a pivotal round of talks that could determine whether training camps open on time this weekend.

The league and CFL Players’ Association haven’t met since talks broke down last Wednesday when the CFL rejected a union proposal, then publicly revealed details of its last offer in separate letters to players and fans. Training camps are slated to open Sunday.

“We’re going to wait to get in that room Wednesday to see how it goes before any determination is made,” CFLPA president Scott Flory said when asked if he expected players to report to camp.

“We’ve had internal discussions on that and we have strategies in place.

“As you well know, it has been well documented (strike) ballots have been sent out to our players.

“We’ll cross that bridge Wednesday and see how it goes.”

The current collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight ET on Thursday. Flory has said union members wouldn’t play under terms of the existing deal.

The regular season is slated to kick off June 26.

There has been one players’ strike since the formation of the CFLPA in 1965. It came in ’74 and lasted three weeks during training camp before a three-year agreement was signed with no regular-season games lost.

Revenue sharing is the main stumbling block in the negotiations, with the players wanting it back in the new agreement after conceding it in the last deal signed before the 2010 season. CFL commissioner Mark Cohon has said the league won’t agree to revenue sharing because it doesn’t have sufficient revenues and profits for the model to work effectively.

Cohon and Michael Copeland, the CFL’s president and chief operating officer, were not available for comment Tuesday. A league spokesman said both were busy preparing for today’s session.

But Flory said revenue sharing remains a focal point of the players’ association’s offer, adding the union warned the league four years ago that it would be.

“They came to us four years ago and we understood the situation,” Flory said. “We took it off . . . but it was also stated clearly there was going to be discussions and we were going to want this back.

“The term revenue sharing seems to be a pretty big, scary word out there right now and it’s not. What we’re talking about here is a system where the cap — which is a cap, it’s a maximum on what you can spend — is somehow connected to the monies that are being generated, is somehow tied to revenue. Through good and bad, it goes up or it goes down and the players are willing to share in that because it’s a successful model that exists out there. We understand that it’s not the NFL but we’re just on a smaller scale.”

The players’ key demand comes at a time of economic prosperity for the CFL, which for decades was on thin ice financially.

The league has a new contract extension with athletic apparel giant Reebok. One of its teams (Winnipeg) moved into a new stadium last season and another (Hamilton) is scheduled to do so this year, the same time expansion Ottawa will return and play at a refurbished facility.

And with attendance continuing to rise and corporate sponsorships remaining strong, the CFL is buoyed by a lucrative five-year television agreement with TSN, reportedly worth an average of $42 million annually, that kicks in this season.

That deal alone will reportedly net clubs an extra $2.7 million each this season, a fact not lost upon Flory.

“The increased revenue is based on the product on the field and the players are the product,” he said. “Our guys are full-time athletes . . . and deserve to be compensated fairly for it.

“We’re not asking for anything more than what’s fair. Actually what we’re asking for is substantially less than the other professional associations.”

The league has offered to boost the average player salary by 12 per cent this season to $92,917 with a further increase over the following five years. The salary cap would increase by nine per cent from $4.4 million to $4.8 million per team while the average salary would go up $5,000 to $50,000 with a further increase to $55,000 over the following five years.

The salary cap would also rise by $100,000 per team if the CFL receives more television revenue from TSN under a renegotiated broadcast agreement for each remaining year of the collective bargaining agreement.

The CFLPA, which contends the average player stipend is just under $72,000, is asking for a $6.24-million cap, with a $5.84-million minimum. The ’15 cap would be determined from the gross average revenue of seven clubs — excluding the top and lowest-grossing franchises.

The proposal also calls for the players to receive 55 per cent of gross revenues from TV rights, pay TV rights, radio, Internet and any other form of broadcast or telecast of CFL games, 45 per cent of revenues from sponsorship and licensing and 40 per cent of tickets to pre-season and regular-season games, including the sale of luxury boxes, licenses and any other revenue related to the public attending at games.

Flory, a former Montreal Alouettes offensive lineman, says there are plenty of non-monetary issues the two sides can agree on and bridge whatever gaps last week’s impasse might have caused.

“I think we should be able to negotiate all the issues at the table, to be honest with you,” he said. “We have to be able to build a partnership and have some kind of an agreement there which truly is a partnership.”

Just Posted

Red Deerians shop for exotic plants at spring plant sale

Exotic plants are popular at the Red Deer & District Garden Club’s… Continue reading

Central Albertans come together to end MS

Red Deer’s Bre Fitzpatrick has MS. The medication the 34-year-old is on… Continue reading

Wildfire crews watching for dangerous wind shift in High Level, Alta.

HIGH LEVEL, Alta. — Crews battling an enormous wildfire just outside the… Continue reading

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

OTTAWA — While most Canadians firmly back the Charter of Rights and… Continue reading

Red Deer stamp-collecting event a hit, local club expected to start in fall

Postage stamp-loving Red Deerians can expect to have a place to gather… Continue reading

WATCH: Cars, airplanes, motorcyles on display at Red Deer Airport

Cars, motorcycle and airplane enthusiasts united at the Red Deer Airport Sunday… Continue reading

Cast your votes for the Best of Red Deer

Nominations for the Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are officially… Continue reading

Bid to get D-Day beaches added to list of UN World Heritage Sites in limbo

OTTAWA — The beaches of Normandy, where the Allies stormed ashore to… Continue reading

Could this 20-year-old Montreal polyglot be Canada’s most multilingual student?

MONTREAL — Georges Awaad answers the phone with a polite “Hello,” but… Continue reading

Feds lay out proposed new rules for voice, video recorders in locomotives

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals have laid out their proposal for rules… Continue reading

Trump’s trophy day of sumo, golf and cheeseburgers in Japan

TOKYO — President Donald Trump presented a special U.S.-made trophy to the… Continue reading

Two dead, one seriously injured, following explosion in Calgary home’s garage

CALGARY — Police in Calgary say they believe a house fire where… Continue reading

Raptors fans spill onto the streets ahead of potentially historic game

Cars honked, exhilarated fans chanted and long lines formed outside bars and… Continue reading

Most Read