The spectre of strike action hangs over Australia’s elite football competitions after an explosive day in which tension over stalled Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations between the game’s governing body and its players union began to boil over.
Football Federation Australia officials claim they were stood up at their Sydney headquarters by Professional Footballers Australia officials, who failed to show for a meeting on Wednesday morning.
A short time later, PFA released a statement claiming FFA would no longer recognise of the players body – a claim FFA chief David Gallop soon denied – and that the playing group had voted to reject a CBA proposal at a meeting on Sunday.
PFA president Matt McKay said members had given the union “a strong mandate” to reject the CBA and suggested they were incensed that their requests for improvements across a range of areas had been rejected.
McKay said the players were “shocked and disappointed” that FFA had terminated the current agreement, which is due to expire on Friday after a mandatory month’s notice.
“[FFA] then came out with these new player contracts and regulations – but we’re still supposed to be negotiating,” the Socceroos and Brisbane Roar midfielder said. “It seems they’re just not interested in our views.”
This week’s events could determine whether the players consider industrial action, which could affect the current FFA Cup and the A-League, which is due to begin on October 8.
“I spoke to players in my team and ran into some of the Perth Glory players at Sydney Airport this morning and everyone wants this to be solved,” McKay said. “The players feel we’ve come up with a fair deal. We feel that we grow the game and deserve to be part of the revenue it generates. I know the Socceroos in camp are very behind the negotiations and want things to happen. They won the Asian Cup, there are big World Cup qualifiers coming up and the current proposal is that they’re going to take a pay cut.
“The Matildas, too, in the six months before the World Cup they were literally working full-time hours for part-time pay. It has to be rectified. Obviously this week’s an extremely important week but it hasn’t started too well.”
The PFA rejected the CBA also because, it said, there were inadequate protections for A-League player contracts and poor provisions for players transitioning into retirement.
“It is clear that FFA’s CBA proposals and its decision to withdraw recognition of the PFA are very damaging to both,” PFA boss Adam Vivian said. “FFA has left the PFA and the players with no option but to take the necessary steps to secure the rights and wellbeing of Socceroos, Matildas and A-League players under Australian industrial law.”
FFA soon responded with a lengthy statement saying it was “shocked by the inaccuracies” in PFA’s claims. It said FFA would “continue to recognise the PFA and the role it plays”. It claimed the deal offered to the PFA “would deliver the best ever deal for Australian professional footballers at a time when A-League clubs face economic challenges and are looking at investing in facilities and academy systems for the long term future that will see sustainability for decades to come”.
A critical point arrives on Friday when Roar players are due to be paid monthly wages. McKay said it could further expose the issue of contract security. “Over the past two seasons alone there’s $1.4 million in unpaid wages to players in the league,” he said. “We’ve proposed a number of measures to fix this but they’ve all been rejected. At Brisbane the fact is we haven’t been paid. Simple as that. I’m 12 months behind in super, I’m owed a lot of bonuses. Players want that security that when they sign a contract the payments will be made.”
© 2015 The Sydney Morning Herald | This article was written by David Sygall and first appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald on 12 August 2015.