RLPA MPAG Agree on 2023 CBA Negotiation Focus

5th May 2022

On Tuesday this week, the 10-player RLPA Men’s Player Advisory Group (MPAG) met to discuss and prioritise claim areas ahead of the upcoming CBA negotiations. The result of the player-led initiative was agreement between the RLPA and MPAG on the claims (to be tabled during CBA negotiations) and strategy. The two hour meeting, focused entirely on the CBA, was a springboard ahead of the negotiations with the NRL commencing in the months ahead. The RLPA’s men’s leadership instigated the meeting with RLPA to agree on a strategic approach for the upcoming negotiations, and to direct the RLPA on its priority claims. Highlighting the seriousness with which the playing group is taking the forthcoming CBA, the players undertook this meeting with the RLPA ahead of financial information being provided to them by the NRL.

The agreed pillars of these claims by the MPAG include:

  • Injury and medical support
  • Transitions & past players
  • Commercial rights & player property
  • Wellbeing & education
  • International rugby league
  • Integrity

    In attendance at the MPAG meeting were all 10 NRL players who make up the RLPA Men’s Player Advisory Group, led by RLPA General President Daly Cherry-Evans. Also in attendance were RLPA Board members Christian Welch, Wade Graham, and Josh Hodgson as well as Moses Mbye, James Tamou, Chad Townsend, Damien Cook, Dale Finucane, and Kurt Capewell.

    RLPA General President Daly Cherry-Evans praised the Men’s Player Advisory Group and players for their commitment to each other: "The current playing group are the most engaged and knowledgeable about their rights and entitlements that I’ve ever seen. We’re united and incredibly committed to getting the results we want in collective bargaining. The MPAG’s job is hugely important to hearing the views of the entire playing group to form our collective position. Our work, along with the Delegates, will not only be beneficial to current male and female players, but also to past and future players too. The Men’s Player Advisory Group and the RLPA are completely aligned on our strategy and claims. We have complete confidence in the RLPA leading us through and representing us during negotiations.

    Clint Newton, the RLPA CEO, spoke about the MPAG’s leadership and readiness for collective bargaining negotiations: "After my initial positive discussions with the NRL’s lead negotiator Hugh Marks to understand the functions of his role and how we will move forward, we have now provided the Men’s PAG with clarity on how we will work with Hugh during the collective bargaining negotiations. Our player leaders are ready to begin negotiations once we receive and analyse all the essential financial information requested from the NRL. The players are highly engaged, and will continue to stand united with unwavering commitment to secure the best terms and conditions for our past, current and future NRL and NRLW players. Given the RLPA requested the appropriate financial information from the NRL in November last year, there is an expectation that there should be no further delays and they will be a true and accurate reflection of the game’s current and future financial positions. The Women’s Player Advisory Group will also meet this month to agree strategy and claims to be tabled during their collective bargaining negotiations."

    Ref - RLPA [Viewed 12 Nov 2022]

    RLPA Misses Oct 15 CBA Deadline for 2023 Season, Statement

    24th October 2022

    Following a number of reports in the media, the Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) would like to make a number of clarifications on the status of the current collective bargaining (CBA) negotiations with the National Rugby League (NRL) and Australian Rugby League Commission. The RLPA Board met to address the current status of the CBA negotiations and make informed and appropriate recommendations to RLPA management. During the meeting, the Board were updated on the NRL’s commitment to providing the RLPA with a revised CBA proposal no later than today (Wednesday October 19). This commitment followed two weeks of meetings between RLPA leadership (staff and players) and the NRL. The Board was also required to make a decision on whether to terminate the current CBA – a right that exists for both the RLPA and NRL under the terms of the CBA but had to be exercised on or before 15 October 2022. After careful consideration, the RLPA Board made the decision not to terminate the current agreement, and the NRL were notified of this decision in writing last Friday October 14. The NRL also informed the RLPA that they would not terminate the current CBA agreement.

    The RLPA Board made it clear that any revised CBA proposal must address key matters that have been discussed in negotiations and are fundamental to the players’ employment as rugby league players, such as:

  • Genuine revenue sharing and guaranteed share of out-performance
  • NRLW collective terms and conditions, particularly player payments
  • Improvements in minimum payments, benefits, and standards
  • Agreement rights over core terms and conditions of employment
  • RLPA autonomy and management of key benefits, programs and support, on behalf of players
  • Improved integrity rules, frameworks, and procedures
  • Increased NRL investment into and governance reform of the player-funded Wellbeing & Education program
  • Improving player welfare, health and safety, and support across the game
  • Creating fair commercial and property rights

    Clint Newton, the RLPA’s Chief Executive Officer, on the RLPA Board meeting and expectations of the NRL’s revised CBA proposal: "The decision by our Board of Directors has shown enormous good faith in the NRL and Commission to present a revised proposal that better reflects the expectations of the players. The NRL has also committed to reaching an agreement and made assurances that they will dedicate the necessary time and resources until the completion of this bargaining process. With NRL CEO Andrew Abdo increasing his involvement in negotiations, we now have an opportunity to get a deal done sooner rather than later. We trust that the NRL’s decision not to terminate the current CBA strengthens their commitment to delivering a proposal that meets the expectations of the players and clubs, and we can reach an agreement that better reflects the player’s contribution and essential role in driving the game forward. There have been delays in negotiations because, until recently, the CBA was not prioritised by the NRL and Commission. Locking away an agreement for potentially five years is a significant responsibility, so the players will not be rushed into a deal until they are appropriately satisfied. The players have been very clear all year, this CBA negotiation is not just about the salary cap and we will continue to advocate for necessary improvements across all areas that have an impact on the benefits, programs and support we must provide current, future and past players."

    Ref - RLPA [Viewed 12 Nov 2022]

    RLPA Statement on NRLW CBA and Draw Delays

    9th Nov 2022

    In response to media reports the announcement of the 2023 NRLW draw has been delayed, [after the recent announcement of the mens NRL draw,] the female leaders of the RLPA would like to make the following statement: As players, we are frustrated with the current state of our CBA negotiations. While we acknowledge that the NRL has understood the players’ position on the draw, we hope that we now have the opportunity to prioritise our historic first Women’s CBA before confirming the future of the NRLW and our obligations. We have already played five seasons of NRLW. We have invested in the start up and growth of the competition. It has come at a cost to our personal lives, families, employment and studies but we have committed to making these sacrifices because we are pursuing our dreams and we want to build strong foundations for the future of the game. However, the lack of security and certainty does take a toll and we believe it is time that we are afforded the respect we deserve through the first ever Women’s CBA. This CBA is intended to change that and provide all players with a clear pathway to pursuing a professional rugby league career. The players’ right to negotiate and agree to our employment terms and obligations is a central and fundamental claim in the CBA bargaining process. An announcement of the NRLW 2023 draw would have set the structure and largely dictate the hours of work for players, which should not happen without a CBA that will capture all the critical terms of employment that we require as players to secure our futures. We support the NRLW, we support women’s rugby league and its potential, and we support the NRL’s ambitions for the game. However, we need a women’s CBA prioritised and agreed to before we can take the next steps in creating and announcing a 2023 NRLW season that will continue to elevate and grow the women’s game. We deserve respect for our past, current and future contributions to the game and that begins with the finalisation of our CBA.

    Ref - RLPA [Viewed 12 Nov 2022]

    RLPA Walk Away from NRL CBA Meetings

    11th Nov 2022

    A statement from Dr. Deidre Anderson AM, RLPA Board of Directors Chair As the proud Chair of the RLPA it is my duty, at every step, to act with integrity and in the best interests of our members. It is a responsibility that I take seriously and have committed myself to for many years now. At every Board meeting I am humbled by the love and enthusiasm our members have for their fellow players and the game. The RLPA prides itself on its values of professionalism, courage, fairness and respect. We have taken these values into our CBA negotiations with the NRL and ARL Commission over the past year in the hope of negotiating in good faith, as true partners, to securing an agreement that the game can celebrate as industry leading. At all times, the RLPA Board is composed of a minimum of 50% current players. Currently, we have two female and four male playing members sitting on our 12 person Board. Those six players are also members of our Player Advisory Groups who are crucial to bringing forward the views of the collective playing group, along with our Delegates at each of the NRL and NRLW clubs.

    In light of recent media reports insinuating that the RLPA has not acted in the best interests of its members, our player leaders have issued the following statement. A statement from the Player Advisory Groups

    Our Men’s and Women’s Player Advisory Groups are made up of 22 of some of the most passionate, committed and knowledgeable people in the game. We proudly work alongside each other and the rest of the player Delegates in helping to advance the interests of the entire playing group. Six members of the Player Advisory Group are also Directors on the RLPA Board alongside Clint Newton and five of Australia’s most experienced and respected corporate executives. Since the RLPA first attempted to commence CBA negotiations 12 months ago, the Board and PAGs have been completely transparent with the entire playing group about the progress of discussions. To have the Commission publicly claim that the wider playing group has been misled during the CBA negotiations, purely because we are refusing to roll over for the Commission, is not only false but offensive and demonstrates a lack of regard to the sophistication of the playing group. As leaders of the Players’ Association, we could not have been more transparent with the wider playing group around the status of the negotiations and why we have rejected unsuitable and sub-standard proposals put forward by the NRL on behalf of the Commission. Players have regularly attended CBA bargaining meetings, however not one Commissioner has attended a meeting. Not even once. It was for this reason that it was surprising to read comments from the Commission that accused both us as player leaders, and the RLPA as a whole, of misleading the playing group. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

    We would invite the Commission to join us at the table to better understand the position of the playing group and our clubs. As player leaders we are also tasked with personally updating our relevant leaders once CBA meetings have concluded. We believe in the importance of transparency and inclusion which is why players are well briefed with the most recent and available information at all times. At every opportunity we are being regularly updated as Directors or PAG members by the RLPA executive team and administration, who we work in tandem with. Along with our Delegates, we are transparent and open with our teammates on negotiations, and if there are any questions we answer them honestly and truthfully.

    All we have asked for in recent weeks is to move away from the pointless CBA meetings with the NRL where no genuine progress is made. Instead, we want to come together and to begin genuinely bargaining. Not only is it insulting to have disparaging claims made about us publicly, but to see confidential bargaining positions of any party leaked to the media is extremely disappointing and counterproductive to good faith negotiations. The RLPA will have more to say this afternoon when we share details in response to the unsatisfactory leaks of confidential information crucial to the good faith process of CBA negotiations.

    Ref - RLPA [Viewed 12 Nov 2022]

    Summary of the CBA Issues

    12th Nov 2022

    After the RLPA walked away from the negotiation table over the the 2023 CBA agreement, yesterday, here is a summary of the issues.

    NRL say the players have been offered a package worth $1.32bn over the next five years, the biggest financial proposal in the game's history. In a show of transparency, the NRL claims that both clubs and players have been shown a detailed breakdown of the NRL's finances. Their offer to the players represents a 40.5 per cent share of consolidated revenue from next year. In real terms, the NRL insists that each club will have a salary cap of about $12m, up on the $9.18m limit set on clubs. They also stress that they need to take into account financial considerations outside of the men's game, with grassroots a priority.

    The players' union wants a bigger slice of the pie. They've asked for their share of consolidated revenue to increase by two per cent on the NRL's initial 40.5 per cent offer. The RLPA has also requested only a small jump in the salary cap, instead asking the game to focus on putting money towards hardship and retirement funds in order to support players' medical costs once they finish their careers of if they become injured and uncontracted. "The clear majority of players will not see out the term of this CBA," Newton said. "This is why the players have a representative body to make responsible decisions and invest in areas that will support them when they leave the game. This area of ensuring retiring players are better looked after is something we're really passionate about."

    The union also says it wants to direct most of the salary cap bonus to lower-income players, which would raise the minimum wage to $150,000 a year.

    Newton said the RLPA is also calling for more investment in the NRLW. "There should be a big increase in the women's game," he said. "They deserve that. The commission has to be prepared to prioritise the women and the NRLW clubs. The problem is exacerbated because the broadcast deal does not provide for $1 above production costs for the women's game. They've undervalued our fantastic female athletes."

    The RLPA disputes some of the figures quoted by the NRL. They are forecasting a salary cap of $10.5m for men's teams in 2023, which they claim equates to an average salary of $360,000 per year. The association also argues that the CBA will have to cover more than 300 extra players due to the introduction of a new NRL team, the Dolphins, as well as four new NRLW teams, meaning that they are actually going backwards - especially when inflation is considered.

    They're not overly convinced with the NRL's transparency when it comes to its finances during Covid, either. Players agreed to take a pay-cut during the pandemic but the NRL performed better than expected, financially, and agreed that the players were due backpay. The issue has been how much the players should receive. The NRL initially handed over $11m in backpay in February but there were doubts whether that was a genuine figure. They subsequently increased the figure to $38m in August.

    The RLPA are also campaigning for the introduction of a match-payment system so that a player can earn $2000, for each top-grade appearance, as well as fees for players who compete in finals games, in a similar manner to State of Origin.

    Newton is also far from impressed with "confidential information being deliberately and irresponsibly rolled out in the media", adding that leaks "will only push us further apart".

    Newton disagrees that the players are disputing suggestions they were actually getting a 34 per cent increase under the current offer. "It looks good at first glance but it's not. For this CBA you have to add in a new NRL team [40 players] plus 10 extra full-time contracts outside the to 30 at each club to share the money," he said, The NRL players are going from $980 million all up to $1.198 billion. That's a 22 per cent increase, not 34 per cent. You've got to take into account the NRL's consolidated revenue is increasing by 25.15 per cent so the offer isn't even keeping pace with NRL financial growth. The salary cap is not actually $12.5 million. It's closer to $10.5 million. They've added cars, train and trial players, development players that were previously separate to the cap. It's very misleading. Do we genuinely believe despite the players and clubs being the main generators of the revenue, that they don't deserve to track in line with the same percentage share as the previous CBA term? The players have actually taken a discount to fund other areas of the game."

    Ref - DM [Viewed 12 Nov 2022]

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