Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Players vowing solidarity

CFL playing chicken with union: January

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Glenn January, who was hard at work Tuesday, admits a work stoppage is a real possibility during the current labour impasse with the CFL.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Glenn January, who was hard at work Tuesday, admits a work stoppage is a real possibility during the current labour impasse with the CFL. Photo Store

They gathered around the 10-yard line after practice, certainly within range of the media who were approaching for post-practice interviews.

And then the Winnipeg Blue Bombers served up their first public sign of solidarity as talks between the league and the CFL Players' Association remain at a standstill by shouting, in unison:

"We are one. United."

Tuesday was like so many other in the CFL-CFLPA's ongoing battle to hammer out a new collective-bargaining agreement. The players made an offer, the league rejected it. And then the league -- once again -- referred to their proposal as their "best offer" while asking the CFLPA to have its members vote on it.

"I believe that if they do have us take it to a vote and it goes the way we predict -- which would be unanimously if not almost unanimously denied -- then the CBA would expire in certain provinces," said Bombers CFLPA rep Glenn January. "That would mean our players would be put at risk. We're not going to put our players on the field without protection. So, that's one way for them to kind of force our hand, I believe."

The players believe the CFL's latest move is akin to them playing chicken.

"Like I've said before, they're trying to put as much stress on the players as they can," January said. "But I don't think they understand how resourceful our players are, especially young guys. We can figure it out one way or another if it comes to a work stoppage.

"I've seen guys leave town with 17 paycheques uncashed. It's not unheard of but I don't want to spend too much time talking about potential work stoppages because that's not our focus, that's not our goal right now."

The level of frustration continues to grow for the players because they feel they are making counter-offers against their own position. Plus, it's impossible to negotiate with a party that refuses to sit across the table from them.

Then again, that's part of the tactics from the league perspective. So was the suggestion in their memo on Tuesday that they would extend the deadline for the ratification bonus until this Friday if the CFLPA would vote on their proposal.

"I told you guys before we're doing everything in our power to try and get something accomplished," said January. "We're on the field, we're practising, we're contacting them, we're coming up with new offers and trying to negotiate and they're taking a hard-line approach.

"It's disheartening to think that they think that low of us. We'll see what happens."

The Bombers are scheduled to play an exhibition game at home on Monday, June 9 against the Toronto Argonauts -- the first of nine pre-season contests before the real games begin on June 26.

January said the June 9 game won't be in jeopardy unless the league forces the players to vote on their current offer. As it stands, the players are protected by terms of the last CBA, even though it expired last Thursday.

"I think we're going to continue to reach out with them and do everything we can," he said. "We still stay steadfast in our goal of having the season start on time. But we do have alternative options. I don't know when or if those will be exercised. Our goal is still getting with them and getting something accomplished.

"Negotiating is actually sitting down with people and talking it out, not setting a firm line that's not fair for both parties.

"We were frustrated a couple weeks ago. I'm not too happy about the situation, but we've got people in place to confront this head on."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2014 D2

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