Labour Day could arrive much earlier than usual for the Canadian Football League.
CFL Players’ Association operatives, rightfully rankled by the league’s negotiating tactics, have asked the rank and file not to work beyond May 18 — the date of expiration for the collective-bargaining agreement — unless a new deal is reached.
It is a rare, applaudable act of aggression by an association that has traditionally lapped up the crumbs that it is thrown in one-sided negotiating sessions.
The players are fed up and they should be.
For reasons that remain unexplained, the league has postponed talks until the end of April.
CFLPA types are also irked by the teams’ withholding of off-season bonuses.
The clock is ticking — training camps are scheduled to open May 19 — and ticking off the players is unlikely to help matters.
The league’s tactics have had more of a unifying effect on the players than any of the rah-rahs the CFLPA’s brain trust could have dreamed up.
Under different circumstances, the union could easily weaken and/or fracture.
After all, the players have not received a cent since November, and some of those payments were based on a minimum salary of $54,000. Some bank accounts must be drier than a Marc Trestman press conference.
Yes, the remuneration can also soar well into the six figures for quarterbacks such as Mike Reilly, Bo Levi Mitchell and Trevor Harris, and even a passer of comparatively modest achievement (say, Zach Collaros ) stands to command least $300,000.
But, in many cases, the fans earn more than the players, who are well-positioned to be portrayed as sympathetic figures in the court of public opinion — especially if the league continues with its heavy-handed approach.
“The CFL’s unilateral decision to delay bargaining and withhold off-season compensation are aggressive acts and CFL players are responding accordingly,” CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay tweeted on Wednesday.
“We have the full support of the CFLPA membership.”
That is easy to say at this juncture. The key will be for the players to remain unified — well into May, if need be.
If the negotiations continue to be unproductive or non-existent, the CFLPA needs to be prepared to follow through on its bold words. The league will be poised to pounce on the first sign of weakness.
The best test of both sides’ resolve could be in late May, when the pre-season is to begin.
What if an actual game — albeit a meaningless one — has to be sacrificed? If it comes to that, will someone blink? And will it be the league that capitulates, for a change?
The players can win this one if, somehow, 500 players can speak with one voice.
Good luck with that …
But suppose that, at long last, the players’ association is willing to battle and able to stay together.
If so, the CFLPA could very well emerge with some major gains — and here’s hoping that they do.
The players are the show — the ones who score the touchdowns and absorb the hits.
And when they are blindsided in negotiations, nobody can blame them for finally saying “enough!”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019