Rugby

Canadian rugby 7s squad applies for union certification

Canada's top rugby sevens players have applied for union certification, turning up their dispute with Rugby Canada another notch.

Several players at odds with Rugby Canada over reorganization and payment

Nathan Hirayama, left, and Harry Jones feel Canadian rugby 7s players aren’t respected. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Canada's top rugby sevens players have applied for union certification, turning up their dispute with Rugby Canada another notch.

The B.C. Labour Relations Board has scheduled a meeting for Friday on the players' request to join the United Steelworkers of America.

Thirteen members of the Canadian sevens squad have boycotted training sessions in Langford, B.C., refusing to sign Rugby Canada's contract offer.

In a bid to maximize its resources, Rugby Canada has opted for one centralized player pool rather than have the 15s and sevens teams practise separately. The sport's governing body is also looking to spread its financial resources, with some sevens players taking a cut so others can have their funding improved.

CEO Allen Vansen says Rugby Canada supports the creation of a "collective Canadian rugby players association" to represent all senior national team players — which is different from a trade or labour union.

Vansen also argues that the concept of a union is not applicable "because the players are actually not employees and they're not employees of Rugby Canada." He says instead they are amateur athletes who get financial assistance from Sport Canada and Rugby Canada.

The two sides are currently not talking, according to Vansen.

Watch Ghislaine Landry discuss the plight of the Canadian men:

Canadian women’s sevens captain gives her insight into the hot debate around Rugby Canada's reorganization, as well as what's fuelling the women's 2018-19 season. 3:47

Co-captains Nate Hirayama and Harry Jones, via social media, have complained that sevens deserves more respect.

"It's 2018. 7s is no longer just a development tool. We have to get with the times or we're going to get left behind," Hirayama tweeted above a picture of the Canadian team celebrating its victory at the 2017 Singapore Sevens.

Jones's tweet contained another photo of Singapore celebrations that showed the players hoisting coach Damian McGrath in the air.

"These players and staff have dedicated their lives and careers for moments like these. All we want is to keep chasing our dreams," Jones said.

A lawyer representing the boycotting sevens players says six of them have volunteered to help the 15s squad in its World Cup qualifying bid "provided the men's 7s players are treated fairly."

Rugby Canada had turned down the offer, he added.

Rugby Canada disputes that claim, saying the players are the ones withholding their services.

The Canadians 15s side is currently ranked 23rd in the world and faces a last-chance World Cup qualifying tournament in November. Canada's sevens squad, which finished ninth on the World Series circuit last season, begins play in Dubai in late November.

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