MELBOURNE, July 27: Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland wants an independent umpire appointed to arbitrate in the pay dispute with the players’ union if the long-running impasse isn’t resolved next week.
At a hastily-convened news conference Thursday, Sutherland said it was possible for the administrators and the players to come to an agreement within days if there was “positive intent and the right people in the room” for some intensive negotiations.
But if there’s no new agreement, he’ll push for arbitration and short-term contracts to allow the upcoming tours to Bangladesh and India to proceed and for players to prepare for the domestic season and the Ashes series starting in November.
About 230 Australian cricketers have effectively been unemployed since the previous pay deal expired on June 30.
A development tour to South Africa has already been canceled, and there is serious concern among Australian supporters from the prime minister down about the potential fall out if the dispute isn’t resolved before the tours to South Asia.
“I’m optimistic that both parties getting together over the next few days can resolve the issue but time will tell,” Sutherland said. “What we have put forward here is a good solution, it’s a fair-minded solution.”
Sutherland didn’t specify who he’d propose to conduct the arbitration or how it would work, but he wanted Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association to “accept the umpire’s decision and the game goes on.”
“I have increasing concerns about timelines,” Sutherland said, noting that the test squad should be assembling soon to prepare for a Bangladesh tour which starts with a warmup match on Aug. 22. “It’s really important this issue is resolved right now or in the short term.
“We have got a fair mechanism to do that. Best intent. And compromise on both sides will see the matter resolved.”
Cricket Australia said under the latest proposal, players would be re-contracted at the commencement of arbitration and remain contracted until the final memorandum of understanding is signed.
“In the absence of a negotiated agreement, an arbitration process would appear to be the only option available to the parties that would provide a certain end point to the dispute and restore certainty to the game,” a Cricket Australia statement said. “This now needs to be achieved as expeditiously as possible.
The players’ union said it had been pushing for mediation for months and, in the meantime, “Cricket Australia has lost the players and most of the game’s stakeholders.”
“And now, after pushing the players into unemployment, an extended period of a lack of financial transparency, after three months of rejecting mediation and only after the recent arrival of the CA CEO into talks, CA discovers the need for urgency,” the ACA said in a statement. “That said, in the spirit of doing all we can to resolve the dispute, the ACA will examine the correspondence provided by CA.
“And will continue to work intensively in the CEO-to-CEO negotiations with a view to achieving resolution.”