An eleventh-hour crisis that threatened to derail CFL training camps, set to begin on Sunday, appears to have been averted late Saturday night.
Players meeting on the eve of camps to discuss the tentative agreement between the league and players union didn’t like what they saw, sparking another round of last-minute bargaining to prevent a strike.
It appeared the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were set to walk off the job, accusing the league of double-crossing the players.
That decision was reversed, as per a statement issued by the CFL Players Association less than 90 minutes before midnight, Winnipeg time.
“Never before have the players in this league been as unified as they are today,” the statement began. “Thanks to the powerful mandates, as directed by the players, and the unity demonstrated by all, we have been able to navigate the discrepancy in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).
“The language in the MOA is now agreed upon and is exactly what we communicated to you earlier. We are now prepared to sign and move forward with your unanimous endorsement for the tentative collective agreement.”
The player memo sent out among the Blue Bombers earlier in the evening accused the league of double-crossing the union and told players it’s time to take job action and walk out of camp.
The memo, first reported by Sportsnet’s Arash Madani and posted on his Twitter account late Saturday night, read as follows.
“Guys. The league has double crossed us on our tentative agreement. There are numerous items that they have now gone back on that threaten many job s… we will now be moving forward with a strike until further notice.”
IT'S COME TO THIS: This is an internal memo sent to Winnipeg Blue Bombers players today.— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) May 19, 2019
Turns out the "strategy" of #CFL owners: get players into the country and camp and dorms/hotel rooms, then pull a fast one. It is despicable conduct, yet another glimpse into "CFL 2.0" -- pic.twitter.com/ng5VS51KtI
The memo went on to tell players not to attend an 8 a.m. meeting with Bombers president/CEO Wade Miller, where Miller was expected to try to convince them to accept the deal.
“This is NOT what we agreed to,” the memo continued. “They have engaged in bad faith negotiating. Let’s stand together and for each other.”
The note also told players head coach Mike O’Shea didn’t expect them to report so they shouldn’t worry about repercussions from him.
“Do no(t) speak to coaches or team personnel,” it concluded. “Guys who have treatment do not enter the building. There will be veterans outside the building tomorrow morning. If anyone questions whatsoever do not hesitate to ask Chad and myself will answer as best as possible.”
It wasn’t immediately clear who the memo was from, but the Bombers player reps are offensive lineman Pat Neufeld and long snapper Chad Rempel.
Players from other teams chimed in via Twitter as well.
“Have players report to camp under the guise of an agreed upon CBA and then renege on critical details when you know a strike would put many players in a difficult financial situation. Dirty Tricks,” tweeted Calgary running back Charlie Power, a seven-year veteran.
By the end of the night, though, the two sides had averted a crisis.
Players still have to vote on the tentative agreement.
Those in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, Montreal and B.C. would be in a legal strike position on Sunday, May 19, while teams in Alberta and Ontario couldn’t legally walk off the job until later in the week.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019