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Posted by RLPA

July 05, 2023

Players Respond to Stalled CBA Negotiations

After meeting with over 50 player leaders from all clubs last night (Tuesday), players have unanimously decided that they must take action as a result of the NRL’s unreasonable CBA ultimatum.

In response to our fair and reasonable settlement proposal, where players made key concessions to benefit the game, the NRL made over 100 unreasonable and unacceptable changes to the proposal. The NRL’s response to our settlement proposal was presented to us by the ARL Commission as a take-it-or-leave-it offer and refusal to continue negotiations.

The ARL Commission and NRL have effectively halted negotiations.

Outside of agreeing with us that players’ salaries should be raised in line with the game’s revenues, the NRL and ARL Commission wants to take away player rights (medical information), exploit them (player property), control how they spend their money on player funds and benefits (allocation), and make players pay for things they shouldn’t have to (insurances that don’t benefit players). 

The NRL’s take-it-or-leave-it response included a raft of changes that would significantly restrict or reduce the rights of the players, leading to an unacceptable erosion of their rights. 

Rugby League players take risks every time they step onto the field. The average career is 40 games and it can be over in a second.  We cannot stand by and allow the erosion of basic employment rights for men and women.

This unreasonable ultimatum from the game’s administrators has forced players to take action that will see all players boycott media obligations on any day there is an NRL, NRLW or State of Origin match. On those days, players will only participate in content produced for club-owned media channels.

The purpose of this player action is to force a change to the impasse in CBA negotiations through delivering three (3) critical outcomes:

  1. A  complete draft collective bargaining agreement with terms covering all NRL and NRLW players, ready for ratification by NRL and NRLW players. And in the interim:
  2. The NRL and RLPA agree to commence meetings with an industrial relations mediator to reach an outcome on all unresolved matters.
  3. The NRL needs to reinstate player pre-COVID entitlements as outlined in the original CBA (2018 – 2022), enabling players to receive their full entitlements.

Quotes from Dr. Deidre Anderson AM, Chair of the RLPA Board:

Thank you for joining us today. I am here today as the Chair of the Rugby League Players’ Association, representing the NRL and NRLW players, to announce a difficult but necessary decision.

The players have unanimously decided to take action in response to the current impasse in collective bargaining negotiations with the NRL and ARL Commission.

Recently, the RLPA submitted a proposal to the NRL and ARL Commission that is fair, contains numerous concessions by players and does not ask for a single dollar more than what had already been agreed upon.

Unfortunately, the NRL and ARL Commission responded with changes that deviated so significantly from our proposal that they restricted the rights of players to an unacceptable level.

They also made it clear that their response was non-negotiable and not open for discussion.

To make matters worse, the NRL and ARL Commission have determined that in the four months left of the CBA rollover period, they will only pay NRL players COVID-reduced benefits despite accepting the record revenue generated from the content players create.

I want to emphasise the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in today. We are witnessing a disappointing breakdown in negotiations, and a blatant disregard for the rights and welfare of our players. 

This is a clear attempt to intimidate players into a deal that undermines their rights, their voice, and their control over their own careers and players agree unanimously that they will not roll over to union-busting tactics such as what we are witnessing. 

That is why, from Thursday 6 July, our players will be boycotting all broadcast and media engagements on days when NRL, NRLW, or State of Origin matches are scheduled.

This includes pre-match, half-time, and post-match interviews, as well as press conferences and other media opportunities.

Further details of the boycott, as well as the outcomes we are requesting from the NRL and ARL Commission, will be provided in a statement that will be released shortly.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge the strength and courage of our players, particularly our NRLW athletes, who continue to break barriers and pave the way for future generations. As a woman in a leadership role within rugby league, I understand the significance of their presence and the importance of their voices being heard.

Our sport, our players, and our fans deserve better. We stand with them, and we urge the NRL and ARL Commission to do the same.

Quotes from Clint Newton OAM, CEO of the RLPA:

As the CEO of the Rugby League Players’ Association, I want to add to the Chair’s message and provide further context.

I would like to thank the recent facilitator of the negotiations for his dedication to achieving a good outcome for all. However, negotiations now require a different approach. But his contribution is greatly appreciated.

This issue hits home for me on a personal level. I have lived and breathed this sport; as a fan, player and administrator for as long as I can remember. I understand the sacrifices our players make and the risks they take every time they step onto the field. Their careers can be fleeting, and they deserve to have their rights and welfare protected.

Over the 20 past months, we have seen a disturbing pattern of behaviour from the NRL and ARL Commission. What we have seen is a failure to respect the role of the players’ representative body, erosion of fundamental player rights and attempts to buy off players without understanding this CBA is about so much more than money. They have failed to honour their commitments in providing a CBA everyone can be proud of – one that respects the players’ irreplaceable role. They did not properly disclose financial information and payments owed to the players, and disregarded their collective concerns. The players have shown tremendous patience and goodwill throughout this process, but their trust and resolve have been tested time and time again.

I want to be clear that we have been forced into this position and importantly our issue is not with the media. Unfortunately, unless we were prepared to fail in our obligations to appropriately represent and protect our members, the only choice we are left with is to take action. It’s important to understand that this action will be seen by some players as not hard enough, but for now, this is considered appropriate action given the NRLs take it or leave it position, which now rewinds much of the good outcomes we were optimistic about securing.

We must also remember not to let this dispute overshadow the connection between the players and the fans. While there is no game without players, there is no profession without fans. Fans are the lifeblood of this game, and our players are dedicated to playing for them and providing the entertainment they deserve. They have a deep connection with the community because they too, all started their journey as a fan.

We entered into negotiations with the hope of reaching a fair and reasonable agreement that addresses the needs and interests of all players. We made concessions, we engaged in good faith, and we presented a settlement proposal that did not ask for a single dollar more than what had already been agreed upon. Yet, the NRL responded with over 100 changes that would have sent players backward in many key areas. This response was unacceptable with clear erosion of player rights, including; taking away player rights (medical information), exploiting their player property, controlling how players spend their money on player funds and benefits, increase the amount of matches played without player agreement, and making players pay for things they shouldn’t have to (insurances that don’t benefit players).

This player action is about safeguarding the integrity of the NRL and NRLW competitions and standing up for what is right. We urge the NRL and ARL Commission to come to the table and provide the players with a fair deal.

As one of the leaders in our game, I am fearful and concerned about the trajectory of our game – with all major stakeholder agreements unsigned, unresolved and unannounced. These include the NRL and NRLW CBA, club licensing agreements, NSWRL and QRL member agreements, NRL and NRLW Grand Final venue and location, and International Rugby League schedule and structure. We need to come together and provide certainty for everyone, this must be a non-negotiable.

Let us not forget, our game is the only game in world sport that started due to a workers’ and player rights dispute and more the 100yrs on here we are again except it’s with our own governing body.

We are standing up and stepping forward to represent the will and conviction of the players and we will continue to stand firm for the benefit of current, past and future players and the overall health and success of the game.

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