David Peever on the Memorandum of Understanding | Cricket Australia

Feature Stories

David Peever on the Memorandum of Understanding

July 13, 2017

By cricketaustralia.com.au

Cricket Australia Chairman David Peever writes on the current Memorandum of Understanding discussions between CA and the ACA.

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.

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.

That a former politician and adviser to the ACA, Greg Combet, has been a foremost public proponent of the myth ought to ring alarm bells in reasonable minds. I have no recollection of ever discussing either industrial relations or cricket with Mr. Combet and can only conclude he has some old axe to grind on unrelated matters.

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.

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.

Predictably enough, the myth has been eagerly picked up and repeated by certain shock jocks and gossip columnists. More surprisingly, it has been uncritically regurgitated by some mainstream journalists and commentators who ought to know better.

For the record, I respect the role of the ACA – and unions in general – to negotiate on behalf of their members. I recognise the place of collective bargaining and I accept the industrial relations framework in Australia. When the current dispute is resolved, I would like to see the ACA resume the important and constructive role it has played in cricket up until recent times. Any claims that I hold contrary views to this are simply untrue.

Those repeating the myth point to a speech I made years ago in a completely different context. In that speech my message was that businesses should be able to engage directly with employees and that unions should be able do their job in representing the best interests of their members without attempting to expand their mission into the realm of management.

It’s a completely uncontroversial view shared by all reasonable people. In most situations, employees actually demand direct engagement, not the other way around.

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.

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.

I spent almost every summer weekend until age 30 playing cricket and my life revolved around the game.  As a grade cricketer, I never quite managed the timely run of scores that might have demanded higher representative honours.

My own cricket journey gave me a life-long admiration for those who are not only talented enough, but also dedicated enough, to make it to the top. I was lucky enough to play with and against a few, but I’ve had a lifetime of pleasure watching others, including the current generation of stars.

I would never begrudge these players a fair share of the funds they help generate for the game. 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.

Personality focused myth-making may be standard fare in some walks of life, but has no place in cricket. It sheds no light and will have no impact on CA’s united desire to make reasonable changes in response to the changing needs of the game. That desire has nothing whatsoever to do with ideology – it’s about what’s best for cricket.

This article was published in The Australian on Thursday 13 July.