Players' union push for end to NRL pay dispute
The Rugby League Players Association is putting the heat on the NRL to finalise the long-running pay dispute before State of Origin starts this month, sending their most comprehensive proposal yet.
With an outcome now six-and-a-half months overdue, the players' union this week sent through their first major settlement proposal which they claim includes several concessions.
The proposal covers willingness to introduce a tighter transfer system, as well as an agreement for player health insurance to be included in the salary cap.
The union is adamant it has done so while protecting the game's lowest earners, pushing for the minimum salary to rise to $125,000 this year and $150,000 by 2027.
"Parties were recently encouraged to take the initiative and compromise, and the players have chosen to do that with this settlement proposal," the RLPA said in a statement.
"The RLPA is confident the proposed settlement will break the current impasse, improve and enhance player welfare and give the NRL the freedom and resources it needs to grow the game.
"Importantly, the proposed settlement will not cost the NRL another dollar beyond what has already been agreed."
AAP has been told there are upward of 30 issues still to be resolved, which are covered off in the union's proposal.
Of those, there are only a few that the NRL and RLPA have struggled to overcome in recent months.
Included in those is the health insurance policy, with a long push for players to absorb that cost to avoid a hefty fringe benefits tax expense for clubs.
Under the RLPA's proposal, private health will be included in the salary cap but not come out of the players' pockets, in a bid to ensure minimum-income earners do not have their wages go backwards.
The union has also relented to some degree on player transfers.
They are proposing players not be able to talk to rival clubs more than 12 months in advance, avoiding a repeat of the Cameron Munster saga with Melbourne and the Dolphins last year.
Players' current clubs would also be given a final right of offer, with rookie players developed by the club not able to be approached by rivals until after the first six rounds of the season.
The union will also push to ban coaches from talking about potential signings, claiming it is that aspect of the transfer market that frustrates fans.
"We have begun the settlement process this week following members of key parties returning to Australia, and with the goal of reaching agreement by the first men's and women's State of Origin games," the union said.
"We look forward to presenting the proposed settlement to the NRL before reaching agreement.
"We believe that this important proposal will cement a historic agreement for the good of rugby league and its clubs, players and fans."