Ian Healy slams potential player strike
TEST great Ian Healy has urged Australia's cricketers to avoid strike action, or even talking about it, as the temperature rises in the game's pay war.
Present and former Australian players hinted at strike action after a strongly worded email from Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland said uncontracted players would cease to be paid after June 30 because of a breakdown in negotiations for cricket's new memorandum of understanding.
Healy was playing in 1997 when the Australian cricket team voted to consider strike action before an 11th-hour breakthrough sealed a historic deal that saw modern Australia's cricketers win a set percentage of the game's revenue.
Players are campaigning strongly for the retention of that model that has been in existence since 1997, while Cricket Australia wants it restructured to give it the chance to be more flexible with its funding.
The 1997 team weathered severe criticism for even contemplating a strike and Healy believes the present impasse between Cricket Australia and its players can be broken without industrial action.
"I think a potential strike over a model of payment is just not on," Healy said.
"The game is wealthy. Everyone is doing well. I would not even be threatening to have a strike.
"We are not talking about massive issues here. Strike action should be avoided at all costs and I think the players will feel that as well. They don't want to strike."
Unlike Healy's day, when some high-profile Sheffield Shield players were on $30,000 a year, interstate players can earn 10 times that figure if they are topliners who earn Big Bash deals.
Australia's top 20 cricketers average $1.2 million a year in payments from Cricket Australia.
Healy, a former Australian Cricketers Association president, said while the issues were not major he conceded the two bodies were a long way apart.
"Neither side are budging or really able to describe their arguments believably to the other."
Healy said it was up to Cricket Australia to justify why it wanted to abandon the 20-year payment model and the players needed to explain the reasons why it should be retained beyond the obvious "we like the model".
"Cricket Australia are yet to really produce their justifications in public. I think they want to create hungry cricketers who value performance. They feel first-class cricketers are earning sufficient money at the moment but they have not come out and said that," he said.
"They don't want players who are not playing, who have been dropped or are on injury payments, earning millions of dollars.
"The ACA does not want to lose face by changing the model so Cricket Australia needs to think about how they can change the model without the players losing face."
An Australian team will depart for the Champions Trophy 50-over series in England on Thursday. That tour is not in danger because it falls in the present contract period.
Relations between Cricket Australia and the players will reach a flashpoint when an Australia A team is chosen for a South African tour in July.