Veteran Argonauts linebacker Muamba, CFLPA patiently awaiting vote results on CBA | CBC Sports

As a member of the CFL Players’ Association executive, the tentative collective bargaining agreement reached last week between the union and CFL has Henoc Muamba’s support.

But if it’s not good enough to be ratified by a majority of union members, the Toronto Argonauts’ linebacker is prepared to return to the bargaining table on their behalf.

“Being a team rep and [union] vice-president as well, I try to have a good feel for the room,” Muamba said via telephone Monday. “The last few days I’ve had many great conversations with a bunch of guys.

“The hardest thing for a committee is you must be able to have a representation but you also want to have a good feel for the guys within the locker room. You want to have good communication with them so you can represent them as best as possible. If things change, well, listen, you must be able to adjust on the fly.”

The two sides reached a tentative seven-year agreement Wednesday, four days after players with seven of the CFL’s nine teams went on strike. It marked just the second work stoppage in league history and first since 1974.

The CFLPA executive has recommended acceptance of the deal, which features increases to the CFL salary cap ($100,000 annually starting next year) and minimum salary (from $65,000 to $75,000 by 2027). It also includes a revenue-sharing formula for the CFLPA and gives players a chance to have the final year of their contracts guaranteed up to 50 per cent.

And while the CBA calls for a return to padded practices — one hour weekly during the regular season to a maximum of 12 — it extends medical coverage for retired players to five years from three.

Canadian ratio

The agreement also calls for the number of Canadian starters to increase from seven to eight but that would include a nationalized Canadian — an American who has spent either five years in CFL or at least three with the same team. In addition, three other nationalized Canadians could play up to 49 per cent of all snaps on either side of the ball.

And that bothers many current Canadian players, to the point where there are concerns whether the CBA will indeed be ratified. If it’s not, the CFLPA would have to return to the bargaining table with the league, creating more uncertainty with the exhibition season — which was already amended because of the stoppage — scheduled to begin Friday night with two games.

Muamba joined the CFLPA hierarchy in Montreal on Friday to discuss the deal with players. Muamba is not only a former Alouette but also speaks both officials languages.

The visit came after Canadian linebacker Chris Ackie, an Alouettes player rep, suggested the agreement could be rejected.

Muamba said players on some teams — including Toronto — have already voted on the agreement.

“The next coming days are going to be essential and crucial to be able to get a good feel for the guys whether this deal stays or we have to change certain things,” Muamba said. “I’d be more than glad to go back to the table if it’s not ratified but if it is, then we know guys are happy.

“I’m just someone right here waiting on the numbers.”

Muamba feels the deal is a good one that covers many bases for players.

“I think it’s got something that’s good for everyone at different stages of their career,” he said. “However, what I might perceive to be good, until I have a deep conversation about it with someone, that’s when they’ll let me know exactly how they feel; communication is always the most important key.

“Some guys like it, some guys like certain things about it that others didn’t necessarily love. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this being my first time at the table, it’s you can’t please everybody but you try to do what’s best for the whole group; it’s about the majority.”

7 teams begin training camp

Toronto was one of the seven teams that began training camp Thursday —Edmonton and Calgary reported for the May 15 start because they weren’t in a legal strike position then. So Argos players are trying to make up for lost time amid the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

“I don’t think it [vote results] takes anything away,” Muamba said. “But I’m not going to be oblivious to the fact that guys are probably thinking about it.”

The dilemma facing players is weighing the benefits of accepting the deal against gambling that a better one remains at the bargaining table. If the agreement is rejected, Muamba said the CFLPA will attempt to kick-start contract talks buoyed by the knowledge it’s what most of the membership wants.

“I think the committee will be more comfortable to push further knowing they have the strength and confidence of the membership behind them,” he said.

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