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Respect the Players

As footy fans across Australia settle in for another weekend of enthralling NRL contests, they may not be aware that the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) are in a contest with NRL bosses.

The NRL is trying to cut the rights and conditions of players and have adopted a “take it or leave it” approach.

Instead, the NRL should return to the bargaining table and respect players’ ownership of their future, long-term medical care, and their fundamental employment rights – like the right to negotiate collectively.

Respect the players

What's at stake?

Without players, there is no game, and without fans, there is no profession. As a game born in the working class, there's no sport that better understands the connection between players and supporters.

The RLPA is asking the NRL to treat the players with respect and return to the negotiating table – this time with a formal industrial relations mediator, which is common practice when two parties are in dispute.

Despite clubs working with the RLPA, agreeing on all terms and conditions that affect clubs and players, and the RLPA not asking for a single dollar more in negotiation since December 2022, the NRL is still trying to make changes that increase their control and coercion over players, including:

  • Severely reducing how much negotiation the NRL has to undertake with players
  • The NRL dictating how many commercial partners the players and their union can have
  • Limiting the union's access to integrity notices, making it harder to assist players
  • Ownership and use of medical data, allowing the NRL to use it for any reason without express informed consent
  • Collection and storage of medical data that doesn't meet privacy law requirements
  • A range of coercive monetary controls, including reduced pay for training ground and reserve players
  • Adding more matches to the season schedule without agreement with the players
  • Controlling where the RLPA can send its money on player funds and benefits

Read more via the RLPA website.


Queensland Unions show support for players

QCU-RLPA1 (web)

Queensland Unions are supporting the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) in its bargaining dispute with the National Rugby League (NRL) over player conditions.

A delegation from the RLPA – including CEO Clint Newton – addressed the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) Executive for the first time on Wednesday, 2 August 2023.

Pictured (L-R): RLPA Women’s Advisory Group Director and Brisbane Broncos NRLW player Chelsea Lanarduzzi, General Manager (Elite Women and International Relations) Lina Caccamo, QCU General Secretary Jacqueline King and RLPA CEO Clint Newton.

The address follows a briefing to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Executive last week where unions across the country voted unanimously to support the RLPA in its dispute with the NRL.

The RLPA has been bargaining with the NRL over a joint NRL and NRLW bargaining agreement for more than 20 months.

RLPA members are taking action including refusing media opportunities and taping over the NRL logo on their jerseys in response to the NRL’s decision to walk away from negotiations.

The RLPA has been waiting almost two weeks for a response from the ARL Commission when the Association last communicated to the Chair seeking an NRL commitment to an industrial relations mediator.

QCU General Secretary Jacqueline King said Queensland unions were supporting the RLPA because the issues faced by players were no different to those faced by other workers.

“NRL and NRLW players are elite athletes but they are also workers doing a job and they should be treated fairly and respectfully for the contributions they make,” Ms King said.

“The NRL’s take-it-or-leave-it approach to bargaining and refusal to refer the dispute to an agreed independent industrial mediator are tactics we see from obstinate employers all the time.

“The issues at the heart of this dispute – safe and secure work, respect and the right to act collective through a union – are issues common to all Queensland workers.

“Without players, there is no game and the NRL needs to be reminded of that.”

Ms King said player safety was also central to the dispute as the NRL was seeking the ability to add at least 16 additional games to player schedules without player agreement.

“This is about employer decisions that put worker health and safety at risk and it's about work intensification – again these are issues that all workers face,” she said.

”I have no doubt that Queensland union members will back in the RLPA. Their fight is a fight for safety and respect at work. And it’s our fight too.”

How union members can support players

As unionists, we know that one of the most important things you can fight for is respect.

Whether you do your job on your own or in front of thousands of screaming fans, every worker deserves respect from the people who are making money off their labour.

That's why Australian Unions are supporting the Rugby League Players Association in their dispute with the National Rugby League.

Despite these men and women literally putting their bodies on the line – week in, week out – the bosses of the NRL have given the players an offer that fails to protect and respect the players.

These players – these workers – need our support. Sign the petition to show your solidarity.

NRL petition button

You can also show the players they have your support by posting on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and using the hashtag #RespectThePlayers.