An ongoing labour dispute in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) is delaying training camps around the league, and it could end up pushing back the start of the season for the Saskatchewan Rush.
The Professional Lacrosse Players’ Association (PLPA) says its members have “pledged to not attend” training camps across the league until a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is reached with the league.
Lacrosse insider Evan Schemenauer, who writes for laxallstars.com, told 650 CKOM the standoff is already causing the cancellation of camps in Vancouver, Toronto, Buffalo and Georgia — and it could end up delaying the start of the season.
“December 1st is not a certainty at this stage,” he said, noting the date the NLL season is supposed to kick off.
The Saskatchewan Rush told 650 CKOM they are still planning to host their only official pre-season home date on Nov. 16 at Saskatoon’s SaskTel Centre, but the team has directed all other requests for comment related to the CBA to the league office.
A statement emailed to 650 CKOM on Thursday by the NLL noted training camps are open and they are continuing in “good faith negotiations.”
“We welcome the players attendance,” the statement reads.
“We are not locking out the players, however we will be postponing camps in the necessary markets this weekend due to lack of participation.”
The negotiations for a new CBA began when the PLPA opted out of the final year of their previous agreement in January. The association is fighting for a wage increase, and specifically tying player salaries to league revenues.
Schemenauer noted the highest-paid players in the league, labelled as “franchise players,” receive salaries of $38,983 USD while veteran players can be paid between $15,696 and $31,186. Rookies receive $10,565 while those signed to the practice roster get $1,000 for a full season.
It’s unclear how much of a raise the association is asking for, but Schemenauer said it appears to be small.
However, he said it isn’t an easy request for the league to grant.
“There’s a lot of teams still struggling financially within the league,” he said.
“So it’s difficult for owners to come and say ‘yes, we’ll pay you more’ when it’s only going to add to their losses at the end of the day.”
According to a source close to the negotiations, players are pushing for owners to open up their books and disclose revenues to the PLPA.
On the other side, Schemenauer said the league is asking the players to take a reduction in how much they get from expansion fees. San Diego and Philadelphia were asked to pay $5 million each to join the NLL starting in 2018-19.
Both the NLL and PLPA had been fairly silent about the negotiations up until Oct. 19, when the players’ association released a statement saying the two were still “far apart” in their talks.
The latest communication from the association came on Oct. 31 when the PLPA tweeted, “The players remained united in their quest for a fair CBA. Dialogue in proposal exchanges are continuing. The players have pledged to not attend training camps until they are satisfied a fair memorandum of understanding is reached and ratified by the players.”
Schemenauer said even insiders like himself are finding it difficult to pull information from league and player sources about the negotiations.
In his mind, that’s a good sign.
“It’s at least going to keep the negotiations off the front pages and hopefully allow for a solution to be found,” he said. “In 2013 it got really ugly on social media, and they wanted to avoid that.”
He added the negotiations were also nasty in 2007, when the NLL temporarily announced their season would be cancelled before reinstating it when an agreement was reached weeks later.
Schemenauer hasn’t seen anything that drastic in this CBA’s negotiation, but he is worried about the time crunch.
“They’ve got about two, maybe three weeks before they have to start looking at postponing games,” he said.
Insiders were hoping for good news out of the bargaining room on Friday, but reports indicate the PLPA ended the meeting early.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Schemenauer said.