NRL and players remain a long way from peace in protracted pay dispute | NRL

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The NRL pressed the nuclear button by unilaterally announcing the salary cap in December. Tensions have since risen and negotiations between the league and the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) over a new collective bargaining agreement have stalled.

Why are the NRL, clubs and players still at odds?

Little or no progress has been made with regard to a new collective labor agreement. Bargaining, at least in any real sense, hasn’t even started yet, according to the RLPA. Players feel disrespected by the NRL and frustrated with the lack of progress. The NRL is not only reluctant to hand over more money, but is also concerned about the loss of decision-making power over basic employment conditions.

What impact did the announcement of a salary cap have?

The NRL announced an increase in the salary cap to $12.1 million in 2023, two days before Christmas. It was a 25% increase according to the NRL, but significantly less in real terms from the last negotiated salary cap, according to the RLPA. The lack of prior approval from the RLPA was seen by players as disrespectful, lacking in goodwill and an attempt to position players as greedy.

What does this mean for NRLW players?

The women’s league will be expanded to 10 teams this season, but the players will not have a CBA to work under. Players are currently being forced not to train or train without the security of private health insurance since the latest deal, funded by Jillaroos player sacrifices, expired on December 31. Dally M medalist Raecene McGregor injured her MCL in practice this week. Broncos star Ali Brigginshaw said she will not train without insurance. Players have historically only been offered four-month contracts, which only added to the risk of training without insurance and uncertainty for NRLW players.

What actions have players taken?

Players have taken the unprecedented step of refusing to do NRL media or promotional work. This was an organic player-driven move designed to show unity and seriousness. This action is expected to continue into the season if no collective bargaining agreement has been agreed.

What options are on the table for players

The players insist that “everything is on the table”, including a player strike. While a potential strike remains a way out, chances are players will extend their refusal to participate in NRL activities to community service.

What happens if there is a strike?

This is clearly the worst case scenario for all involved, especially for the NRL. Games would be canceled indefinitely. Income from broadcasters and ticket sales, among other things, would dry up. It would be a PR disaster. One possibility brought up this week was an offer from the USA Championship Rugby League to pause the season and come in as replacement labor if necessary. The NRL has not commented on that option.

Where are the negotiations?

Surprisingly, the negotiations have not even started yet. The NRL submitted a proposal to the RLPA in early January that was rejected by the players, who believe it is going backwards on a player-by-player basis on both financial and non-financial issues. RLPA chief Clint Newton and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo have met and held talks, but no official negotiations have taken place, despite a club CEO noting that Abdo stated in February 2022 that he wanted to sign a deal last year with State of Origin and former Nine CEO Hugh. Marks to lead the negotiations.

Is this all about money?

Yes and no. Money is of course central, but does not seem to be the main source of tension. The RLPA wants to make sure all players move forward on a player-by-player basis with this CBA which includes around 1,000 players due to the addition of a 17th club and 10 NRLW teams, an increase of 600. Abdo said the NRL has “made an offer of $1 .3 billion over a five-year cycle, which is a 37% increase for players.”

What are the issues at play?

There are countless issues and dynamics at play. Players are looking for both security, particularly for women and more vulnerable male players, and greater power, particularly around essential terms of employment and their ability to dictate where players’ share of revenue goes. The NRL seems reluctant to relinquish any power, particularly on essential terms of employment. The players’ lack of confidence in the NRL and their perception that the NRL has not prioritized discussions – including being sufficiently prepared and trained to negotiate – underpins the talks, although the NRL is adamant that achieving agreement with players has been and continues to be a priority.

Where are the players?

Players are “frustrated” not only with how long CBA discussions have lasted, but also with the NRL’s lack of transparency and their attempt to portray players as greedy. Confidence among players has fallen to an all-time low after the NRL unilaterally announced the salary cap and then sent out a proposal that would allow players to “track backwards” on a per-player basis.

Where is the NRL?

The NRL appears to be playing hardball, despite the players claiming they “will not be bullied”. The league seems to believe that the salary cap can be dictated from HQ and that player offerings are fair. The league firmly believes that players will not be worse off on a player-by-player basis under the proposals it has made. The NRL believes they have prioritized reaching an agreement on the collective bargaining agreement, despite negotiations not officially starting yet, nearly 12 months after the NRL said they wanted an agreement on a collective bargaining agreement, and three months after the last collective agreement expired. ARLC Chairman Peter V’Landys said at the time of the salary cap announcement, “we wanted to give certainty to the players and clubs”.

What do the clubs think?

The clubs basically and in majority support the players. They are generally happy with the proposed grant offer from the NRL, but have always maintained that no agreement on grants will be reached outside the context of collective bargaining, something the NRL tried to do last February when they tried to separate the two to separate. negotiations. They have supported players in their players’ refusal to do business with NRL Media.

What is the timeline to resolve this?

There is no timeline. Once negotiations begin, the shortest period for an agreement to be reached would be two weeks, so there remains in theory a possibility of a collective bargaining agreement being reached at the start of the season. However, a club boss believes that this scenario is highly unlikely.

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