Players on the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders will hold a strike vote Saturday.
Veterans on teams outside Alberta have already voted and are in a legal strike position but the Eskimos and Stampeders were unable to vote earlier due to provincial labour laws. If they vote in favour of a strike, the earliest they could do so is Wednesday night in accordance with the legislation.
The CFL and its players have been without a collective agreement since May 29.
The CFL exhibition season is scheduled to begin Monday night with the Toronto Argonauts visiting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but with players on both teams in a legal strike position, that game could be threatened.
CFL Players’ Association president Scott Flory didn’t return a telephone message Friday while a league spokesman said commissioner Mark Cohon wasn’t available for comment.
The Eskimos and Stampeders will include their rookies in the vote because Alberta law requires all players to participate. Traditionally, first-year players don’t vote because they’re not recognized as certified union members, but the players’ association is allowing them to do so to counter any potential legal challenge from the league.
Some other teams in the league will also hold second votes Saturday to include their rookies.
The two sides have been negotiating on a new collective bargaining agreement since February but reached an impasse on Monday when the league rejected the players’ latest offer.
The league and union last met face to face May 29.
Despite turning down the players’ offer Monday, the CFL extended the ratification bonus deadline to midnight ET on Friday. If the players accepted the league’s final offer in that timeframe, veterans would receive a $5,000 bonus while rookies would get $1,500.
However, a league spokesman said the bonus clause would be taken off the table after the deadline.
There has only been one strike since the CFLPA was formed in 1965. Three weeks of training camp were lost in 1974 before a new agreement was reached. No regular-season games were affected.
The 2014 regular season is scheduled to kick off June 26.
The two sides don’t appear to be far apart on financial issues.
The CFLPA has requested a $5.2-million salary cap and $4.8-million minimum. The CFL has countered with a $5-million cap.
The two sides have agreed on boosting the minimum salary $5,000 to $50,000.
After demanding specific revenue-sharing percentages, the CFLPA offer called for a fixed cap for at least two years. After the second, if league revenues increased by more than $18 million — excluding the Grey Cup — the two sides would renegotiate the cap or the entire agreement.
The CFL offer called for the cap to be renegotiated if its revenues increased by $27 million or more in the third year.
Non-monetary issues, such as player safety, practice roster size, eliminating the option year on CFL contracts and practice times, are also sticking points.