CFL looking to take away bonus money as part of labour fight: union

By Justin Dunk and Drew Edwards

The CFL and the players’ association have fired the first shots in what’s possibly shaping up to be an acrimonious labour battle over the next collective bargaining agreement.

The CFLPA issued a memo to all players and their agents Thursday evening accusing the league of directing the nine teams not to pay off-season bonuses slated to be doled out in 2019 in an attempt to “add pressure on the CFLPA and its membership to rush a settlement at the bargaining table.”

According to the CFLPA, the league office issued a directive to the teams instructing them not to pay signing bonuses, roster bonuses and report and pass bonuses starting Jan. 1, 2019 – despite the fact that the collective agreement is not slated to expire until May 15 of that year.

“The CFL’s directive states that while Players and Clubs can enter such arrangements for the 2019 season, payment for the pre‐season bonuses cannot occur until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement has been reached between the CFLPA and the CFL,” the memo reads.

By not paying bonuses in 2019, the CFL would rob many players of their off-season income as many veteran players have such provisions in their contracts. It could also wreak havoc with free agency this year as players look to negotiate roster bonuses that may not be paid and next February when many players look for signing bonuses as part of their new deals.

The CFLPA says it recently asked the league to rescind the directive and has been denied.

The CFL was not immediately available for comment.

The full memo is below:

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21 Comments on CFL looking to take away bonus money as part of labour fight: union

  1. The league will shoot itself in the foot by implementing this policy and alienating its players. I would find it hard to believe that Randy Ambrosie would endorse this. Bad, bad, bad.

    • Negotiations are give and take, hold back the payments until a new agreement is in place.
      The CFL also needs to negotiate the Canadian Ratio, it must be REDUCED. We are seeing less Canadians playing football in schools and there are less players to choose from in the CIS. Some of these Canadian players should not be playing pro-football.

    • It’s easy to believe Ambrosie would endorse a bad decision like this after the bad decision he made to set a hard limit of one replay challenge per team per game.

      • Steve Sanders // December 8, 2017 at 7:22 pm //

        I get the frustration but play was just stopping for numerous meaningless replays. Increase it to 2 but you can’t challenge plays away from the ball.

  2. Simple negotiating, as both sides will do. Tough negotiations will imply the league is on reasonable shape, and that there is money to go around. Good, good, good.

  3. Stupid move. What is the CFL thinking?

  4. Lancaster/Reed // December 7, 2017 at 9:37 pm //

    Aren’t these bonuses written into the players contracts? Ive seen players get cut before bonuses get paid out , but to simply not pay these bonuses puts the team in breach of contract. Doesnt it?

    • doobzacheria // December 7, 2017 at 10:25 pm //

      That’s what I thought. Don’t think it matters if the CBA expires on May 15th, 2019. If it’s written into a contract that a bonus is due on May 14th, and that player is not released by then, then the bonus is legally due. Contracts may not be guaranteed, but I believe that means that the team can cancel them at any time. I am not saying this is fair to the players, but I do not think the CFL office can mandate teams to breach contracts, nor can they force teams to release players without cause.

      To me, this seems like a way for the CFLPA to try to incite an adversarial stance to the bargains by the players and their agents.

      I’m all for the players getting what they deserve. Hopefully some kind of longer term health care is in the works, for current and retiring (I don’t think they could make it retroactive). Maybe with the caveat they stay in Canada. But the CFLPA messed things up with these one year deals. They want more, and don’t see how they can get it without angering their clients.

      I hope both parties come to an amicable agreement in 2019.

    • dangnabbit // December 8, 2017 at 12:43 am //

      Yes, the bonuses are written into the contracts. I don’t know enough about contract law to say what the effect of deliberately reneging on that obligation would be. Could be that all players who miss a bonus effectively become free agents – if the league voids all player contracts, they lose the only instrument they have that ties a player to a particular team.

  5. Tigers Coach // December 7, 2017 at 9:41 pm //

    Very simple and likely effective tactic by the owners. In a league where many players likely rely heavily on these bonuses, legally withholding them will undoubtedly have some players putting pressure on the PA to get a deal done quickly to trigger a payout.

  6. solara2000 // December 7, 2017 at 11:26 pm //

    Come on! Not a union sympathizer but do believe in being fair with your employees. If their is a modicum of truth to this, shame on the owners. Bargaining hard is different from ‘hard-ball’ bargaining which creates loser-losers. And in the case of the people who pay the bills – no, not the owners, the fans – a distancing from the League and the great game that it is.

  7. BigRedMachine // December 8, 2017 at 12:22 am //

    I can see the leagues point of view but am unsure of the legality of it. These early roster bonuses are prepayment for services rendered in the 2019 season. If there is no guarantee that those services are going to be rendered then I can see withholding payment. The catch is that the players are not on strike at that point. Perhaps future contracts should expire on Jan 1 instead.

  8. Christopher // December 8, 2017 at 12:47 am //

    Why would the league make a statement to the teams regarding the 2019 season??? They would not… even if this is remotely true… then the league and the teams would be best to hold their cards very tight to their chest… The only party that benefits from this statement is the CFLPA… by angering their members and creating a situation where contracts are modified this year and not next year… Until I see anything from the league on this… I am calling BULLSHIT on the PA.

  9. The priority at the negotiations should be about REDUCING the Canadian RATIO !!!
    Anyone can see that we have less talent to choose from but we are still trying to fill these positions with Canadians that should not be playing pro-football.
    I want to see more players like Zylstra, Spencer, Ellingson and less of the Canadian ratio fillers

  10. Sounds and looks like a real mess in the future. Ratio needs revised especially considering Canadian QB status. Bonuses not guaranteed just like the actual contracts are not so if a team does not pay it I would consider the actual contract null and void and the player a FA to do another deal elsewhere.

  11. What an Insane negotiating tactic. It will most certainly do more damage than good, entering any talks of negotiation. The ramifications and pre negotiation deals could lead to mayhem, as both players and teams jockey for position.

  12. Joe// Way to go, you hit it right on the head! Does the CFL want to grow their fan base and grow their fan base across the league or does the CFL want to continue to lose more fans and lose more viewers lose more season ticket holders and lose more revenue for the the league and their owners. If the CFL wants to be truly respected as a real professional sports league and fully supported the CFL has to do what the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and even MLS soccer are doing, by finally allowing the CFL to recruit the best and most talented available players to start and play at every position for entire CFL game, so CFL 3 down football can be played at its highest level with the best available players. Rather than being controlled and dictated to by the Canadian players and their carefully selected Canadian player’s association members and their controlling handcuffing, guaranteed unrealistic and unobtainable Canadian starter ratio and their huge guaranteed Canadian roster ratio. And if the CFL wants to be a real player they got to put a stop to this old school way of running a professional football league, because it’s obviously not working and isn’t selling CFL 3 down football, and clearly doesn’t work in today’s highly competitive professional sports leagues. And if it did the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and yes even MLS soccer, would have it in place. And they don’t, because their fans wouldn’t except it or support it because they like any intelligent professional sports fan, only want to watch the best and most talented players play in their professional sports league. So why should we except it, it’s time for real change in the CFL and it’s about time the CFL decides you starts and plays in the CFL at every position for entire CFL game, not the Canadian players and their controlling Canadian player’s association and their controlling handcuffing, guaranteed Canadian starter and huge Canadian guaranteed roster ratios. This needs to change!

    • solara2000 // December 8, 2017 at 2:23 pm //

      Hard to deny MLS is eating the CFL’s lunch in the 3 cities where the 2 leagues go head to head. Must be something to be learned from that reality.

      • HA1912GCC // December 9, 2017 at 3:55 pm //

        The “reality” of MLS is American TV money. Take away shared revenues coming from American rights holders and the three Canadian MLS teams would be dealing with the same Canadian network, Canadian advertisers, and local fan base as the CFL teams. TFC fans can rightfully brag about their team’s income and team salary, but the truth is they aren’t paying for it alone. American TV viewers provide a massive subsidy to the Canadian teams.

  13. Live by your word and Honor your damn contract. These guys get paid peanuts as it is. Pay them what you’ve agreed to pay them. 100% behind the players.

  14. Bombers are screwed. The unreported signing bonus is their main strategy to circumvent the sms.

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