By Frank Enright
SYDNEY — As the 1994 Rugby League season got under way, players, through their union, registered their first dispute with the clubs in the Industrial Relations Commission. On March 17 the commission declared that a dispute existed and ordered both parties to negotiate.
The union will negotiate with the clubs through New South Wales Rugby League, after which the results will be reported back to players.
Through the players' section of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the League's sports workers had already negotiated 13 changes to their standard contract. Canterbury's Simon Gillies, one of the negotiators, marked the progress the players have recently made: "In the past, the contract has never been discussed between the players and chief executives. Our new contract is a step in the right direction and represents a better deal for players."
MEAA Rugby League Players' branch secretary Peter Moscatt told Green Left Weekly that the players ultimately want a decent superannuation scheme and retirement fund as well as a safety net to provide against work injuries.
Moscatt points out that an award will give players the same protection enjoyed by other workers. When an award is established, individual players will not have to take long and costly legal action to have their contracts enforced.
Currently about 80% of League players are unionised, although not all are members of the Alliance. The Alliance is, however, the only union able to represent players before the industrial commission.
The Alliance, says Moscatt, will also ensure that players will get other provisions that are standard to other workers in Australia, such as annual leave entitlements, long service leave and minimum rates of pay. Increasingly, the game is prospering and becoming a big money spinner. New clubs from Perth, Adelaide and Queensland will join the league next year; it is only appropriate that the skills, effort and sacrifice of the players are rewarded.