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A THORNY ISSUE: When you start wrong . . .

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE: When you start wrong . . .

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The methodology of negotiating the recently announced Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Memorandum Of Understanding between the West Indies Cricket Board (WIBC) and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) seems to have been flawed, thus the problems that followed.

As mentioned in my previous column, it appears that the players didn’t have a final voice in what was being proposed between their representative and the WIBC although it would impact on their pay and conditions of work.

This probably started the row.

The players said they agreed in principle with the suggestion that they forfeit the US$35 000 daily sponsorship fee if it was going to benefit all cricketers in the region in light of the forthcoming professional league, but they wanted to discuss it further among themselves.

This was said at WIPA’s annual general meeting in Trinidad on February 1 this year. The minutes of that meeting don’t indicate that there was any resolution on the matter, so we can assume those present had agreed with the players at the meeting – Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan – that they be given time to discuss it further with their peers.

Turns out, it seems,that WIPA went ahead and made a deal with the WICB without full consultation or explanation of what the bi-lateral agreement was all about.

The players saw it for the first time when handed their contracts in India.

Was this right? Wouldn’t we be angry if our bargaining agents had done something similar to us?

We are, after all, only human.

You might question how the players reacted to this development but it is unquestionable that the initial procedure that brought them to that position was wrong.

In fact, paragraph 8 of the board’s release putting their side about the causes for abandoning the tour is an eye-opener. It supports my assessment of their approach.

It reads:”The WICB regrets that the delegation which was pre-scheduled to travel to India to meet with the players on a number of issues will no longer be able to conduct such meeting at which the intention was also to discuss the concerns of the players.

“The delegation had included WICB chief executive officer Michael Muirhead, chairman of the cricket committee Julian Charles and also WIPA president and CEO Wavell Hinds.

“The delegation had been scheduled to arrive in India on Monday, October 20. This meeting was scheduled prior to any issues being raised with the new MOU/CBA and it was intended to acquaint all the parties of how it would roll out. This was necessary as the WICB did not have an opportunity to so do in the Caribbean due to the logistical challenges of assembling all the players prior to departure for the tour of India (some of the players were already in India participating in the Champions League).

“The WICB CEO, Mr Muirhead and WIPA president/CEO Mr Hinds had been in negotiations  with regard to finding a mutually agreeable position to allow for the full tour to be completed.”

So there we have it in bold letters that the players were to be brought up to speed on the new arrangements after the tour had started.

How were we to know that when the master plan was rolled out at the Accra Beach Hotel that the players didn’t know what they were being committed to?

And it would be quite queer for the aggrieved players spokesman Dwayne Bravo to know what was in the package and then appear to be shocked when all was revealed in their contracts.

Their next step was to issue their dissatisfaction of the terms in the contract which they felt had disadvantaged them financially and called for the removal of Hinds as WIPA head and furthermore that they didn’t want him  to negotiate anything on their behalf. I agree that the players’ real problem was/is with WIPA and not the WICB but once there were early signs that the Indian trip could be disrupted, I felt that was the time for the WICB in particular to head to India and meet with the players to discuss their areas of concern and complaint.

After all, the buck stopped with the WICB who are in charge of arranging tours.

It is easy to draw the emotional card of opining that the players weren’t only representing themselves but the entire region and that they could have waited to settle the matter after the tour, but it seemed to me that they felt a sense of deep betrayal by WIPA to sign off on an agreement which they didn’t think have their best interests at heart.

It comes over as if they believed they were left to hang out to dry. They had lost trust in WIPA and the WIBC and there was nobody else to turn to.

It is unfortunate that the Indians were caught in the middle of an internal West Indian affair but clearly it is a case of when you start wrong, you end wrong.

• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist.