A bitter and often times ugly pay dispute between the AFLW players and leading league and Players’ Association officials is escalating by the day, with players rejecting the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement put forward to them and suggesting union officials have pressured the AFLW players to accept a deal they deem as being unfair. It’s a dispute that’s gotten so out of hand in recent months that its put the league in the extraordinary position of having no fixture less than a month out from the scheduled start of the pre-season, and now the entire 2020 season appears to be in jeopardy as a result.

The AFLW players have reportedly written to the AFLPA, advising them that they were “not in a position to recommend” the current version of a proposed CBA.

More to that, a breakaway group reportedly consisting of some of the top players in the league has engaged leading worker’s rights law firm Maurice Blackburn to represent them as the dispute grows increasingly bitter, with a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission now a very real threat.

The impasse stems from a series of disagreements between the AFLW players, which is growing in both drawing and negotiating power, and the controlling AFLPA, which seems reluctant to cede any great level of representation to the women’s playing group.

Maurice Blackburn representatives are claiming that the AFLW playing group has been told to either commit to the new deal this week, or sign a memorandum of understanding that the 2020 AFLW season will not take place.

In addition, they’re alleging that the AFLW players have been mislead over the new deal, a three-year CBA put forth by the AFL, and have not been given a comprehensive breakdown of the contract and its implications.

The deal reportedly contains a 21% pay rise, according to the AFLPA, but the breakaway AFLW group is counter-claiming that the rise is functionally only a 7% rise of per-hour pay rates, and contains no provision for further pay increases in 2021.

The breakaway AFLW playing group is said to be demanding a 5% pay increase, indexed to inflation, year-on-year for the next three seasons. That would also see the length of the AFLW season increased to nine regular season games in 2020, eleven in 2021, and thirteen in 2022.

The most recent version of the CBA only had the AFLW season expanding to a 10-week regular season by 2022, with a three-week finals system to follow.

Half of all AFLW players earned less than $14,000 in season 2019, despite a full-time training commitment and game time. Bulldogs icon Susan Alberti has lead calls for the AFLW playing group to break away from the AFLPA and form their own playing union.

The AFLW is scheduled to expand to 14 teams next season.

Image: Getty Images / James Elsby