Cricket Australia chairman David Peever has refuted claims that CA's proposal to change the revenue sharing model of player payments is driven by ideological opposition to the Australian Cricketers' Association.
In a strongly worded opinion column published in The Australian newspaper this morning, Peever – a former managing director of global mining giant Rio Tinto – claimed the proposal to modify the model to pay players a share of surplus revenue rather than a set portion of CA's gross income is based solely on what is best for cricket at all levels.
Peever said that he recognised the role that collective bargaining played within Australia's industrial relations landscape, but claimed the players' union was engaged in a "reckless strategy" that ran a risk of damaging its own members as well as the broader game.
He also noted that some opposition to CA's offer to around 300 professional players was so vehement "anyone could be forgiven for thinking CA was proposing the reintroduction of slavery rather than healthy pay rises".
Read More: CA Chairman David Peever's article
Peever said suggestions – most notably by former Australian trade unions boss and ex-Federal Labor Minister Greg Combet, who has been enlisted as an adviser by the ACA – that CA's desire to change the model reflects his personal view of workplace relations was demeaning and wrong.
"Of all the claims swirling around the pay negotiations between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association, perhaps the most tawdry is the suggestion that CA has been motivated by some extreme industrial relations agenda, supposedly imported from the mining industry," Peever wrote.
"It's a complete myth, and deeply insulting to many people across the cricket spectrum.
"It has been deliberately fabricated by those seeking to portray cricket as an industrial relations battleground, and pushed out for the explicit purpose of undermining CA's case for modest but necessary changes to the current player payment model.
"The suggestion that CA's push to modify the player payments model has nothing to do with genuine issues facing the game is an insult to everyone involved at CA, including other members of the Board.
"It is also an insult to all those from across the State and Territory Associations who understand and support the need for change.
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"Even worse, it disrespects all those from across the cricket community who have flooded CA and me personally with messages of support because they see first-hand the chronic underfunding of the game at the grassroots level, in particular junior cricket.
"These people are true servants of the game and to imply that they are mere pawns in some ideological power play has outraged many."
In an offer that was initially tabled (and rejected by the ACA) in March before being revised (and again rejected) last month, CA proposed that all players share in a capped pool of surplus income as well as pay increases for all men's and women's international and domestic cricketers over the next five years.
The ACA has firmly opposed any move away from the existing revenue sharing model, and proposed its own alternative under which players share a reduced portion (22.5 per cent, down from around 25 per cent) of a total payment pool that is increased through a broadened definition of 'revenue'.
That has also been rejected by CA and, as a result of the ongoing stalemate, the failure to agree to a new Memorandum of Understanding that was scheduled to come into effect on July 1 has seen more than 200 men's and women's players fall out of contract and become unemployed.
The ACA has established a players' hardship fund to provide assistance to those uncontracted cricketers experiencing difficulties in meeting financial commitments while unpaid, and set up a wholly-owned company able to commercialise the intellectual property (IP) of players who are not currently bound by CA contracts.
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The players' union has also criticised CA for directly contacting players with information relating to the MOU negotiations and contractual details after confirming the players had expressly delegated responsibility for all such discussions to the ACA.
However, Peever said the ACA had been informed that direct contact might be made with players and added that he believed the ACA would continue to play an important part in cricket's growth and prosperity once the current impasse is resolved.
"Any claims that I hold contrary views to this are simply untrue," Peever wrote.
"Negotiation works best when the respective roles of management and unions – both important – are clear and mutually respected.
"That's why when CA first outlined a position back in December, we made clear that we respected the role of the ACA (we still do) to negotiate on behalf of its player members.
"We also reserved the right to provide important information, including the details of our pay offer, directly to players.
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"Australia's elite cricketers have indicated that they want to be partners in the game.
"That's fair enough, but unfortunately their union is not behaving that way.
"CA has put what in any normal circumstances would be regarded as a very generous offer on the table.
"It includes healthy pay increases for all male players, a more than 150 per cent increase in pay for all female players and gender equity in both pay and conditions, a share of any surplus for all players and major increases in other support and benefits.
"The ACA has responded by not only rejecting that proposal (and recent concessions) out of hand, but by launching a campaign of such sustained ferocity that anyone could be forgiven for thinking CA was proposing the reintroduction of slavery rather than healthy pay rises.
"But not content with that level of overreaction, the ACA has gone much further, refusing to allow players to tour, threatening to drive away commercial sponsors and damage the prospects of broadcast partners, lock up player IP into its own business ventures and even stage its own games.
"It's a reckless strategy that can only damage the game and therefore the interests of the ACA's own members."
Peever also reiterated that around 71 per cent of CA's total revenue is spent on the staging, marketing and administration of elite-level cricket, and that it is the need to change the way revenue is allocated to ensure more flows through to grassroots cricket that underpins the modified payment model.
"I would never begrudge these players a fair share of the funds they help generate for the game," he wrote.
"I'm pleased that all players have never been more highly rewarded than they are today.
"But CA and the State and Territory Associations are responsible for the health of the entire game, not just the elite level where more than 70 per cent of the game's total revenue is currently directed.
"We also have a responsibility to ensure that a fair share of the game's resources is directed to other levels, including junior and grassroots cricket where it is most sorely needed."