CFL, CFL Players’ Association reach agreement on new contract

The tentative deal replaces a five-year contract that was set to expire May 18

New CFL balls are photographed at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium in Winnipeg Thursday, May 24, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

There’s labour peace in the CFL.

The league and CFL Players’ Association have come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The tentative deal replaces a five-year contract that was set to expire Saturday.

Details of the agreement weren’t immediately available, but a CFL official said it’s a multi-year deal.

The contact is pending ratification by the players and approval from the league’s board of governors. The CFL could give its approval as early as Wednesday at a previously scheduled meeting of its board.

Getting it ratified by the players will take longer. That’s because the union must first present the deal to team reps, which will happen Wednesday. Then, it will be forwarded to the players.

READ MORE: Veteran CFL quarterback Ricky Ray calls it a career after 17 seasons

The tentative agreement comes with CFL training camps slated to open Sunday. The deal was reached following two straight days of marathon bargaining.

The two sides met into the night Monday, got a head start on talks early Tuesday morning and continued talking until early Wednesday morning. The latest round of bargaining began Sunday night and Tuesday’s session was the final scheduled face-to-face session prior to the end of the current deal.

The situation didn’t look good last week when union executive director Brian Ramsay emerged from three days of talks saying the two sides weren’t ”necessarily where we need to be right now,” in order to reach a settlement.

The league and players were negotiating monetary items, which is always a potentially contentious discussion. Last week, there was persistent talk they remained far apart on many financial fronts.

That presented a rather bleak scenario of a partial players’ strike at the start of training camp if a new deal couldn’t be reached by Saturday. Ramsay said last week players with the B.C. Lions, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes wouldn’t report to the start of their respective camps without a deal

That’s because they’d be in a legal strike position and had been instructed by the union not to show up.

Players on CFL teams in Alberta (Edmonton and Calgary) and Ontario (Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton) had been told to report to camp because Ramsay said they won’t be in a legal strike position until May 23. That’s when the union would’ve been in a position to orchestrate a full work stoppage.

However, Ramsay continually stated the union’s top priority was securing a fair and equitable deal with the CFL. News of the agreement brought mixed reaction on social media.

“Nice! Now let’s play some Football!!!,” tweeted TSN’s Matt Dunigan, a former CFL quarterback and head coach.

“My sentiment exactly!…,” responded Montreal offensive lineman Tony Washington.

But Hamilton receiver Shamawd Chambers tweeted, “Lol ??????? can’t wait to hear this.”

Washington responded, “Lmao you got that feeling to huh?”

That solicited a response from John Bowman, the veteran Montreal Alouettes defensive lineman who participated on the CFLPA’s bargaining committed.

“So y’all don’t think we did the best we could? Y’all think we just laid down?,” he tweeted.

Washington countered by saying he’d direct message Bowman.

Later, Bowman tweeted: “… like you I was skeptical. But I can tell you being in that room this yr we had to fight for everything. And no matter what you never get everything you want and ppl are never satisfied lol that’s life.”

Contract talks in 2014 between the CFL and CFLPA were testy. Negotiations broke down several times and there was even a threat of a strike before players ultimately reported to camp and both sides hammered out a five-year agreement.

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

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