NRL strike action possible as CBA talks grind on

Jasper Bruce |

Collective bargaining agreement negotiations continue between the NRL and the players’ association.
Collective bargaining agreement negotiations continue between the NRL and the players’ association.

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur is unfazed by the threat of strikes as the Rugby League Players Association issues the NRL with an ultimatum amid slow-moving collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations.

The NRL’s CBA expired at the end of last year and while both parties had been hopeful of brokering a new agreement before round one, none has transpired.

In an email circulated to male and female players on Monday night, the players’ union (RLPA) said it had given the NRL an ultimatum that negotiations, which are now stretching into round four, must show progress this week.

The RLPA has become frustrated with the public perception CBA negotiations have been completed, and with what it says has been three weeks of “stalling” in its talks with the NRL.

AAP understands meetings between the two bodies have been ongoing and that RLPA chief executive Clint Newton visited the NRL’s Moore Park headquarters as recently as Friday.

But the RLPA still has myriad concerns before a new deal can be approved.

An increase in the minimum salary for NRL players, greater certainty around NRLW player contracts and clarity about funding allocation for programs such as the injury hardship fund are all on the agenda.

The NRLW player advisory group will meet on Thursday and their NRL counterparts on Monday to discuss next steps if negotiations do not move forward this week. Industrial action has not been ruled out.

With his side staring down the possibility of a 0-4 start to the season, Arthur said player strikes were not a point of focus for the under-fire Eels.

“I’m not sure exactly where that’s at and I don’t really care,” he said.

“I haven’t seen any distractions, there hasn’t been any talk about it (among the players) and I certainly won’t be talking about it.”

Canterbury winger and RLPA player delegate Josh Addo-Carr backed the union to represent the best interests of the players in ongoing discussions.

“I’ll just leave it up to those fellas,” he said. “We’ve just got to get it done, I suppose.”

Canterbury management blocked further questions about the CBA on Tuesday, claiming Addo-Carr was not an RLPA delegate. The player was this season installed as one of four Bulldogs representatives to the organisation.

The RLPA also wants a draft of the CBA to be made publicly available, to provide clarity for players and fans alike.

The AFL currently has a copy of its CBA available on its website, but no such long-form draft existed for the NRL when the last CBA came into effect in 2017.

The NRL, which has been reticent to engage in ‘tit-for-tat’ claims with the RLPA, believes it is acting in good faith as talks continue.