Johnson poised to step in to solve A-League pay fight

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FFA chief James Johnson will step in this week and force an agreement between clubs and A-League players should increasingly acrimonious pay talks break down.

Players are voting today on whether to accept piecemeal 30 per cent wage cuts to selected squad members as part of a new collective bargaining agreement for next season.

It’s likely they will roundly reject the proposal, which would in turn trigger some clubs into standing down players from Tuesday, whilst some of the wealthier franchises are threatening up to 50 per cent salary cuts across the board.

Initially asked by the clubs’ representative body APFCA not to be part of the talks due to the ongoing uncoupling of the A-League from the FFA, Johnson has been closely monitoring the talks from the sidelines.

But with Professional Footballers Australia and the clubs at an impasse, his patience appears to be wearing thin.

“We want a deal done,” Johnson told The World Game.

“This is an employment-related dispute between employers and employees and therefore we have given APFCA and PFA some autonomy. 

“But if a deal can’t be closed out then we’re going to need to find a way of bringing the parties together.”

The negotiations are a test case for the newly enfranchised club owners as masters of their own destinies.

Yet even given the financial downturn created by the looming exit of rights holders Fox Sports and the fiscal destruction wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, their ability to balance their needs with those of their employees has been found wanting.

A player, who asked not to be identified, said: “The ballot closes at 4pm today and it’s more a formality because it’s looking like a resounding ‘no’ (to the club’s offer).

“We’re at a bit of a standstill. Nobody wants to see stand-downs and I don’t even know what that achieves because, in a month or two, you still have to make a deal.

“It’s just going to anger players more and give them even less to lose. It’s hard to find winners in this situation.”

There are also legal implications if players are stood down or not paid in full, with that course of action theoretically giving them the freedom to serve clubs with two weeks notice before legally walking out on their contracts.

“That’s a scenario that would leave the clubs with a big decision to make in terms of possibly losing someone who’s in high demand (elsewhere),” the player added.

“The crux of this is the unilateral decision (by the clubs) to be able to cut any player’s salary (by up to 30 per cent).

“That’s what’s holding players back - every player’s contract is different and they have different priorities of where they want to be with their careers.

“To make a decision across the board for X-amount of dollars is not going to work.

“It can’t be a blanket decision because that leaves a lot of players vulnerable.”

The PFA were approached for comment.