TORONTO — The CFL and its players exchanged non-monetary proposals Tuesday, the second day of collective bargaining talks between the two sides.
The league and CFL Players' Association concluded the opening round of negotiations by swapping recommendations on issues such as players being present on the CFL's healthy and safety and rules committees, player safety, rehabilitation, arbitration and rosters (including the player ratio).
The two sides have agreed to reconvene Monday and Tuesday in Winnipeg before heading to Vancouver (March 25-26) then returning to Toronto (April 1-2).
"It was a positive meeting . . . a step forward," said Brian Ramsay, the CFLPA's executive director. "I believe it's a positive to be able to get across the country and be in cities where our franchises are and it's a good thing when we have this sort of future outlook.
"Right now there's time to digest and talk internally and we'll do that with our group but that's a positive step. We have something to talk about now."
The current deal expires in May prior to the start of training camp. The 2019 exhibition campaign is scheduled to begin May 26 (B.C. at Edmonton) with the regular season set to kick off June 13 (Saskatchewan at Hamilton).
The two sides met for about six hours each day.
"Everybody came back together after a productive day (Monday) laying out the framework," said union president Jeff Keeping. "Today both sides exchanged proposals and had some healthy discussions back and forth and then time with our individual groups.
"They (discussions) have been strong, it's positive. We've got two groups that are committed to what we're trying to get accomplished here. We've got a strong commitment from both groups that we're not going to divulge specifics but we've both taken a lot of time putting together thorough packages that we respect where both parties are coming from.
"We're also going to give each other the respect of being able to just meet in the room and negotiate those topics."
Shortly after CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie took office, he and union officials began meeting regularly on a monthly basis. Keeping said those sessions have been beneficial early in the collective bargaining process.
"That's something that is a credit to both the commissioner as well as what we've tried to do with the PA," Keeping said. "And that’s open those lines of communication and work on the relationship there so when we get to these times we both recognize there’s issues we'll agree upon and disagree.
"But we've worked towards having a stronger foundation heading into it."
For the second straight day, league representatives didn't speak to reporters following the bargaining session.
Although talks have started on a positive note, Keeping said there's no clear date when the players and league will begin talking money.
"Today was just sharing proposals, getting clarification," he said. "But we understand the time crunch we're under so those are things we're committed to working through and monetary proposals will be shared in due time as we work together."
And when talks resume in Winnipeg, new faces are expected on the players' bargaining unit. The major individuals — like chair Ken Georgetti, vice-chair Ramsay, Keeping and other CFLPA executive members — will remain the same but the group will likely include different players reps.
Player reps John Bowman (Montreal Alouettes), Bear Woods (Toronto Argonauts) and Chad Rempel (Winnipeg Blue Bombers) were present for the opening two days of talks.
"That's something that's important to us and we've made a commitment to," Keeping said. "As we work to this players' agreement having guys part of the process."
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press