It's been a steep learning curve for Ken Georgetti.
Since 2016, he's served as a senior adviser with the CFL Players' Association. Georgetti is a former president of the Canadian Labour Congress and has over 35 years of labour relations experience.
Georgetti was elected vice-president of the British Columbia Federation of Labour in 1984 and two years later became the organization's youngest-ever president. He's an Order of Canada recipient and was the longest serving president in CLC history.
The CFLPA will put that experience to work Monday and Tuesday when it begins contract talks with the CFL. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in May and Georgetti said better job security for CFL players, whose contracts — like those in the NFL — aren't guaranteed will be on the table.
"I do think guaranteed contracts should be and will be discussed," Georgetti said during a conference call Thursday. "The thing I found that's most different from what I'm used to is the relationship between the players and their employer.
"It's usual in the sense that players can get released for any reason. I think that landscape is going to change but the relationship between the players and the league has to change. The players need to have more say in the outcome of their work and they haven't had very much to date, I must say."
Georgetti said player reps are especially vulnerable.
"In most of the workplaces in Canada if you act on behalf of the organization, the association, and speak out you're protected from just cause dismissal," he said. "In the CFL, unfortunately you're not and our experience suggests that some player reps that speak out from time to time find themselves cut from the game and I'm not used to that."
However, Georgetti declined to provide an example of when a player rep was released because of his union activity.
Georgetti and executive director Brian Ramsey will spearhead the union's bargaining committee. The unit will also include president Jeff Keeping and executive member Marwan Hage — who also participated in the '14 negotiations on the players' behalf — as well as assorted union members.
The CFL's bargaining team will again be led by Stephen Shamie, the league's general counsel. Shamie was an integral figure in the 2014 talks with then commissioner Mark Cohon. CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie will participate in the opening bargaining sessions.
The remainder of the league's player-relations committee will be Scott Mitchell (CEO, Hamilton Tiger-Cats), Roger Greenberg (co-owner, Ottawa Redblacks), Rick LeLacheur (B.C. Lions president) and Wade Miller (Winnipeg Blue Bombers president/CEO).
Currently, no further talks have been scheduled past Tuesday.
Ambrosie has stated repeatedly he's anxious to form a partnership with CFL players. On Thursday, Ramsay reiterated the union's stance is to establish a true partnership where both sides accept the risks and rewards of the game equally.
"We need to talk about what a real partnership is," Georgetti said. "A real partnership is sharing both the risk and rewards . . . I think the sharing of the risk is disproportionate and as you can see from the financial sharing of the rewards it's abysmal frankly."
This will mark the first time Georgetti has sat across Shamie but he's heard plenty about the CFL's general counsel.
"A lot of my former colleagues have been (in contract talks with Shamie) and I've been speaking to them about their experience," Georgetti said. "Obviously he's a very skilled negotiator and he's good at his job.
"It's good to have a person with good skills and knowledge in collective bargaining on the other side."
Ramsay said Georgetti's role within the CFLPA has been an important one.
"Ken's played an instrumental part in insuring the connection of all of our members and that the communication has been strong," he said. "I foresee Ken being a big part in that role to ensure the immediate concerns of the entire membership are met."
Money and player safety have been often mentioned as union priorities in contract talks. But Ramsay said they're but two components of a true partnership.
"A partnership is being part of conversations starting with the amount of risk that's taken on the field." he said. "If you look at the risk . . . it's 100 per cent borne by the players.
"So it's having an equitable voice in those conversations around player safety and rules, discussing the future of the game and growth of the game and also the monetary aspects. There's many pieces to that but a true partnership is being accountable to both sides on all these various levels."
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press