June 1, 2018 8:38 pm

Ongoing labour dispute casts doubt on Canada’s participation in World Lacrosse Championships

WATCH: Global News investigated the on-going labour dispute between the Canadian Lacrosse Association and its national players; the current senior men's team is in jeopardy of being sidelined for the world lacrosse championship. Now, the CLA has broken off talks, in what the Players' Association is calling “brazen union-busting” in an attempt to sign athletes for this summer's tournament. Megan Robinson reports.

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Lacrosse’s governing body and Canada’s national players still don’t have a labour agreement in place with just over a month until the July 12 tournament.

Without a deal for all five national teams, the senior men’s field team, the reigning world lacrosse champions, says it won’t represent Canada at the Men’s World Lacrosse Championships.

The Canadian Lacrosse Association’s official spokesperson and director of administration, Chuck Miller, told Global News in an email response Friday that he’s working towards a positive outcome with the NLPTA and that both sides are “still communicating.”

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“There was an attempt for a meeting but [NLTPA lawyer] Mr. Furlong was not available and we are trying to reschedule,” said Miller. “It is in the best interest of all involved for us to focus on our discussions until an agreement can be made.”

Miller tells Global News, the CLA is making every effort to work through this. However, the player’s union says that’s not the case.

Richard Furlong, the lawyer representing the National Lacrosse Team Player’s Association NLTPA, told Global News he had personal obligations between May 29-31 when the CLA attempted to schedule a meeting. Furlong said the CLA was aware and picked two days that he was not available.

“We’ve had literally months of non-negotiations by the CLA and now in a moment of utter crisis they ignore the 45 days that we were available and pick two days that we were not available, which is just further evidence of bad faith,” said Furlong.

READ MORE: CLA’s top negotiator resigns amid lacrosse labour dispute ahead of World Championships

Players are seeking a four-year deal for all five national teams, which include Canadian men and women.

“I’m not optimistic because of [the CLA’s] pattern of cancelling negotiations, failing to give information, in particular, in respect to governance changes, going directly to the players as opposed to dealing with the PA, the last three years of complete mismanagement of the CLA,” said Furlong. “None of this would give anyone any confidence.”

The players said they are looking for better health insurance, removal of participation fees and for the CLA to take steps to re-establish its status as a charity with the Canada Revenue Agency.

The FIL is the international governing body for lacrosse. Canada has been a member since 1974.

CEO Jim Scherr, said in an email response to Global News, the FIL has been in contact with both the CLA and the players.

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“FIL remains hopeful that the CLA and the players can work out their differences so that Canada might be represented in Israel. The FIL Board will make a determination if or when it might become directly involved but that decision has not been made.”

Scherr tells Global News, the competition “will go on as planned and FIL may move another team up to the Blue Division” to replace Canada in its potential absence.

“FIL would like for the defending champions to be represented in Netanya and their presence would add to the event, however, if they are not in attendance FIL still anticipates a great event with the 46 nations who are represented,” said Scherr.

READ MORE: Minister of sport ‘monitoring’ lacrosse dispute threatening Canada’s attendance at World Championships

The penalty for withdrawing from an FIL world tournament is steep. According to FIL policy from 2016, barring “extraordinary circumstances,” a country can face upwards of a $45,000 fine for failing to field a team at a world event, depending on how much notice is given. In addition to the fine, the country is disqualified from the next FIL world event, unless it’s six months from the tournament to which it didn’t show up. The next FIL world event is the under-19 women’s world lacrosse championship scheduled for August 2019 in Peterborough, ON.

Scherr said it’s premature for the FIL to speculate on potential penalties, but added, if Canada does not attend the world championships in July “FIL would have to consider its response in light of all the available information at that time.”

As Global News first reported in late May, the CLA’s top negotiator, Doug Luey, resigned from his position as director of high performance and international relations.

At the time, he said “someone else would be better suited to bridge the gap” between the CLA and the union representing national lacrosse players.

WATCH: Longstanding dispute puts Canada in jeopardy of missing the World Lacrosse Championship for the first time ever

When talks stalled between the CLA and NLTPA last month, the CLA confirmed Luey contacted “second-tier” and replacement athletes, including university lacrosse programs in Canada, in hopes of assembling a 23-man roster to play in Israel at no cost.

This move came after the CLA contacted players on the senior men’s field team directly with an offer related specifically to the 2018 world championships. In an email previously shared with Global News, the CLA offered to cover all costs associated with the tournament in July for as well as improved medical insurance, but Global News learned that none of the 34 players signed at the CLA’s deadline.

The NLTPA previously called the CLA’s action of directly contact players “brazen union-busting.”

Miller has since been appointed the CLA’s official spokesperson.

“The CLA is focused on fielding the best team to the World Championships and is working with the FIL and with the NLPTA to work through this matter,” said Miller.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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