As a deadlock in CFL labour negotiations stretched through this past week and so much rhetoric and brinkmanship made a work stoppage seem unavoidable, it was surprising when sources confirmed to TSN that progress in talks between the CFL and the Players Associations were moving quickly Friday and into Saturday.
Neither side would publicly confirm or deny any discussions were taking place, until the near unexpected happened. On Saturday night sources confirmed to TSN, the league and players agreed to terms on a new, tentative CBA, pending ratification by the union's players.
A league source confirmed the CFL's board of governors must also ratify any potential agreement.
Neither side would confirm specific details of the tentative deal, but sources confirmed constructive movement toward a deal started Friday.
After TSN Insider Dave Naylor confirmed earlier in the week that players on seven of the league's nine teams had voted in favour of strike action, and with strike votes set to take place in Calgary and Edmonton Saturday, sources told TSN “back door” discussions through an appointed mediator began Friday morning.
Ideas and proposals were passed back and forth without acrimony and without talks breaking down. By Friday night, during a Players Association conference call, a tentative deal began to take shape.
The league would hold firm on a $5 million salary cap (2013's salary cap was set at $4.4 million) increasing $50,000 a season, and would not budge on its threshold to renegotiate the salary cap in the third year of a new CBA, set at an aggregate revenue increase of $27 million from the previous year. But the ratification bonus to players would increase to $7,500 for veterans and $1,500 for rookies. And with the union possibly controlling the disbursement of the bonus, and setting a scale for veterans, a six-year CFL veteran could potentially earn $12,000 if the CBA is ratified.
The league minimum salary would also rise to $50,000, from $45,000 in 2013.
A significant non-financial element also possibly included was the elimination of the option contract year for non-rookies.
Sources said the term of the new CBA could be set at either four years, five years or five years plus an option to extend into a sixth season.
The current CBA expired May 29, the same day talks broke down after the union countered a league proposal, which included a $5 million cap and $27 million threshold, with a $5.8 million cap and $12 million threshold to renegotiate the cap. The league also rejected another offer from the players earlier this week, which included $5.2 million cap and $18 million threshold.
New, positive labour discussions continued into Saturday afternoon before a scheduled conference call between union executives and team representatives. A source close to the discussions said he felt “confident” a tentative deal would be reached by the end of the day, although conceded the debate amongst the players would be “vigorous.”
After a four-hour call, the union agreed to take the deal to its players. A league source confirmed the board of governors ratification vote will take place “as soon as possible.”
In a joint statement the league and Players Association emphasized: “Further details [about the agreement] will not be made public until these votes have taken place.”