Those looking to bet on the CFL may have concerns about the Canadian Football League Players’ Association (CFLPA) receiving a 95% mandate supporting a potential strike from players. The CFL’s current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires on May 14.
This move suggests CFL players won’t report to training camps without a new deal. Preseason starts on May 23, with the regular season beginning on June 9. However, it’s too early to assume that postponement or cancellation is imminent.
Finding common ground
CBA negotiation reports have been encouraging, with both sides saying there’s significant common ground.
During negotiations in 2014, CFLPA wanted revenue sharing, and the CFL was unwilling to discuss it. There are areas of disagreement, so a deal is still forthcoming. Some of those disagreements (especially the “naturalized Canadian” discussion) could significantly impact the league. But, at this point, neither side has stated an obvious reason a deal would be unreachable.
Some of these moves from the CFLPA are smart. With that 2014 CBA, part of the issue was not obtaining a conclusive strike mandate ahead of negotiations. This issue is complicated in Canada, as the CFL operates in six provinces, and labour laws vary from province to province.
In 2014, the league’s players outside Alberta could vote and strike before those in Alberta, leading to some union unity challenges. In 2014, players attended camps and played preseason games despite the expired CBA, which didn’t help the bargaining position. Some of this seems to be the union executive proactively communicating with their membership.
Those groups being on the same page is a plus toward reaching a new deal that gets ratified by players.
No CFL players work stoppage — yet
The union memo could allow players to report to camps without a new CBA.
As per Justin Dunk at 3 Down Nation, that memo includes that the union is looking either for a memorandum of agreement or for “the certainty that players will not be stranded in their respective cities in the event of a work stoppage.”
The latter is a lower bar to hit than reaching a finalized CBA, requiring that teams cover player costs even if there is a strike. It’s not a certainty the CFL will agree, but camps could proceed even without a final CBA if they do. And that memo says the CFLPA expects to provide direction on if that will happen or not later this week.
The overall takeaway is that this isn’t necessarily a CFL work stoppage. The more publicly contentious 2014 CBA negotiations did not lead to missed games in the preseason or the regular season. There will be warning signs regarding ramped-up rhetoric about divides if a work stoppage is imminent. But this strike mandate is still notable; it suggests a union membership on board with their executive board’s current approach.
It indicates the league may have to provide some assurances to hold camps as usual. We’ll see what’s ahead.