TORONTO — Contract talks between the CFL and its players have turned ugly.
The CFL Players' Association has instructed its players not to make travel arrangements to attend training camps when they open May 19. The union has also informed its membership it has no intention of working past May 18, which is the date the current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire.
"We have given the CFL a clear deadline that CFL players will not work past the expiry of the current collective agreement," union executive director Brian Ramsay said in a statement Wednesday. "We need to protect the rights of the membership.
"We are working hard to bargain in good faith and we firmly believe both sides should be willing to work as hard as possible to get an agreement done in a fair and timely manner. The CFL's unilateral decision to delay bargaining and withhold off-season compensation are aggressive acts and the membership is responding accordingly. We have the full support of our membership."
Contract talks between the two sides hit a snag last Wednesday when the CFLPA announced the league had unilaterally decided to delay negotiations for two weeks. Following two days of talks in Vancouver, Ramsay said the CFL set a date of April 29 as the earliest it could resume talks.
Ramsay added the league told the union it had "other priorities" to take care of in the next two weeks. The two sides began talking March 11 and had met on 10 separate occasions before the delay, which comes the CFL and its players still negotiating non-monetary items.
A sticking point with players is the CFL's decision not to pay off-season bonuses until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
In a memo to players, the CFLPA reiterated its stance regarding training camp.
"Do not agree to book yourself to travel prior to the 18th of May, 2019," the memo said."If travel is already confirmed, please re-communicate to your member clubs that you will be unable to travel until the day of the 18th.
"After consulting with your team player representatives, it is our intention not to work past the 18th of May 2019 without a new signed agreement. We believe it is in everyone's best interest to conclude collective bargaining and reach an agreement as soon as possible.
"Having said that, we have informed the league that we as a membership are not prepared to move forward with training camp under the current working conditions."
The union also said it will communicate again with its membership prior to May 18 regarding whether players should be travelling to camp.
"Prior to that, it is imperative that we all remain united on our travel dates as per the above," it said in the memo.
That prompted Calgary Stampeders running back Don Jackson to tweet: "I will not report for camp until a new CBA is signed, sealed and in place. @CFLPA @CFL #PlayerStrike #CFL #LockOut."
Running back James Wilder Jr. of the Toronto Argonauts tweeted: "I'm moving back Florida ain't coming back across the border till the deal is done!"
In 2014, contract talks between the league and players were testy. Negotiations broke down several times and there was even a threat of a players' strike before both sides hammered out a five-year agreement.
In May 2014, CFL players reported to training camp without a new deal in place. An agreement was eventually reached and the season went on without interruption.
CFL players have gone on strike once, in 1974, but the situation was settled prior to the start of the regular season.