Members of the Canadian men’s rugby sevens team, who are currently boycotting training, vote Monday on whether to have the United Steelworkers represent them.
The players’ request for union representation was heard Friday at a meeting of the B.C. Labour Relations Board.
There are more steps needed after the vote. Rugby Canada, which is opposed to the unionization attempt, is to make its submission by Oct. 1 with the union responding by Oct 9. Rugby Canada gets to deliver its response to that by Oct. 16.
In a statement, Rugby Canada said it would reserve full comment until the outcome of the hearing “out of respect for the BCLRB’s established process.”
“We continue to support the creation of a player-led and -directed players association which includes members of all of our national senior team players,” the statement added. “We are focusing on having our teams prepare for many of the key qualification tournaments and for major competitions over the next season.
“We strongly believe our approach is the best way to a strengthened model that will garner greater success for both development and high-performance competition for both programs, and we will continue to make the necessary changes to adjust to the current circumstances and work toward an outcome that sets our players and our programs up for success both now, and in the future.”
The sevens players have refused to sign new player contracts, unhappy at the financial terms and concerned that Rugby Canada is not taking their side of the sport seriously enough by opting for one centralized player pool in Langford, B.C.
Rugby Canada argues that having the sevens and 15s players in one pool makes sense because Canada does not have the player depth to keep the teams separate. And that it has to adjust player payments to ensure all receive some form of assistance.
It says while sevens is important, it has to focus on 15s because of the funding that team brings in via World Rugby. Rugby Canada also says that despite having one player pool, the two teams will train separately as needed before competitions.
Rugby Canada believes the labour union route is not appropriate, arguing that the sevens players are not employees but amateur athletes who receive funding from both Rugby Canada and government.
“When 7s and it’s players are still being referred to as ‘amateur,’ it gives a little insight into how out of touch and far behind we already are,” tweeted co-captain Nate Hirayama.
The Canadian 15s team, ranked 23rd in the world, is currently training for a last-chance World Cup qualifying tournament in November. The sevens men, who finished last season in ninth place on the World Series circuit, kick off their season in late November.
Story : Neil Davidson (Canadian Press)