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Football CFL and players’ union in marathon talks over new collective agreement

The CFL faces a threat of a partial strike at the start of training camp if a new deal can’t be reached by Saturday.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

The CFL and CFL Players’ Association are now into marathon bargaining.

According to a pair of sources, the two sides met into the night Monday and got a head start on talks early Tuesday morning, with the expectation that negotiations will again go well into Tuesday night. This round of bargaining began Sunday night and Tuesday’s session was the final scheduled face-to-face session prior to the end of the current deal, which is set to expire Saturday.

However, that doesn’t prevent the league and its players from continuing to talk past Tuesday and schedule additional sessions. One of the sources said late Tuesday afternoon the mere fact the league and players are still at the negotiating table and putting in long hours is certainly a sign progress is being made.

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Last week, union executive director Brian Ramsay painted a rather negative picture regarding the state of negotiations. He emerged from three days of talks saying the two sides weren’t “necessarily where we need to be right now,” in order to reach a settlement.

However, for the first time in these negotiations the CFL and CFLPA met on a weekend (Sunday) and continued talking into the evening (Monday).

The league and players are now negotiating monetary items, which is always a potentially contentious discussion. And, last week, there was persistent talk they remained far apart on many fronts.

The CFL faces the threat of a partial strike at the start of training camp if a new deal can’t be reached by Saturday. Ramsay said last week without a new agreement players with the BC Lions, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes wouldn’t report to the start of their respective camps.

That’s because they’d be in a legal strike position and have been instructed by the union not to show up.

Players on CFL teams in Alberta (Edmonton and Calgary) and Ontario (Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton) have been told to report to the start of camp because Ramsay said they won’t be in a legal strike position until May 23. On that date, the union would be in a position to orchestrate a full work stoppage.

However, Ramsay has repeatedly stated the union’s top priority is securing a fair and equitable deal with the CFL.

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Contract talks in 2014 between the CFL and CFLPA were testy. Negotiations broke down several times and there was even a threat of a strike before players ultimately reported to camp and both sides hammered out a five-year agreement.

CFL players have gone on strike once, in 1974, but the situation was settled prior to the start of the regular season.

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