Savage salary cap cut at heart of NRL pay dispute
The NRL and its players are headed for another pay showdown with the parties about $16 million apart on a revised salary cap as the RLPA claims the game had shifted its proposal by "$10 million in a week".
The RLPA have rejected the NRL's plans to reduce the salary cap by 10 per cent for 2021 and 2022 as the game continues to readjust its spending because of the financial impact of COVID. Players' wages were cut 20 per cent this year.
The RLPA wrote to its players on Thursday night declaring "negotiations are frustrating at times" and claimed head-office had changes its proposal by millions of dollars in a week in the message obtained by The Saturday Telegraph.
"Disappointingly, the NRL's proposal shifted $10 million within a week after we did not agree to their previous position but we just have to stay calm, patient and united as we navigate through these negotiations," the message read.
"Player leaders participated in discussions with the NRL this week and have been outstanding with their representation of the collective. We will continue to include player leaders throughout this process as this remains essential to securing the best and fairest deal for players."
Privately the NRL have rejected the notion they moved their offer in just a week.
Instead they have grown agitated by delays in the negotiation having put an offer to the RLPA early last month before resubmitting a new deal last Friday.
A first offer was put to the RLPA in July with the NRL keen to push through a deal to give the game clarity going forward.
The two parties had further talks on Friday and have committed to more talks next week.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said the parties would continue to work towards finalising a deal.
"The commission and the NRL will always act in the best interests of the game," Abdo said
The NRL and clubs want the salary cap to drop by 10 per cent but the RLPA have flatly rejected this in the message to players and are pushing for cut of up to 5 per cent cut.
That means the parties are about $8 million per season apart in the salary cap alone.
"The 10 per cent is the NRL's proposal at the moment," the message said. "Our position is no more than (a) 5 per cent (cut). Clearly there is further negotiations that need to happen around this.
"We will keep you updated on negotiations as they progress but rest assured that we have not agreed to a 10 per cent reduction in player salaries."
The groups have found common ground in roster sizes for next year which will remain at 30 plus two to four development players. Initially squads were to be cut by up to four spots. That should help the likes of off-contract players including Benji Marshall, Jordan Rapana, Kieran Foran, Aiden Tolman, Nathan Peats, Kevin Proctor and Danny Levi find clubs.
"This position has been tentatively agreed between the NRL and RLPA in negotiations and we had anticipated making a joint statement about it soon," the message read. "It appears that someone at the NRL may have jumped the gun. That is annoying but the good news is that we have preserved as many contract positions as practically possible.
"Our ability to secure the best outcomes will always be linked to the united position of the playing group, and we ask you to continue to ignore any speculation that may be positioned by anyone outside of the RLPA."
While the salary cap dominates headlines it is not the only cause for the RLPA's concern. A host of benefits are also on the chopping block including $1 million worth of prize money - $400,000 of which went to the premiers - representative payments, wellbeing and education and the retirement account. Abdo is in the process of cutting $50 million from the game's bottom line.
Originally published as Savage salary cap cut at heart of NRL pay dispute