Australia's cricketers are satisfied with the new performance-based components of their forthcoming pay deal and expect the MOU to be signed by Cricket Australia and the players' union within the next two weeks, Michael Hussey has said.
While Paul Marsh, the chief executive of the Australian Cricketers' Association and the players' chief negotiator, was more guarded in his assessment of talks, Hussey indicated confidence that the potentially tricky bargaining between the players and CA, represented by the team performance manager Pat Howard, would soon be at an end.
"I think they've agreed on most things, they're just trying to nut out a couple of issues that are left. I believe by the middle of this month they're expecting everything to be negotiated and completed and the MOU finished," Hussey said. "I spoke to Pat Howard during the practice game and he said he and Paul Marsh were really happy with how negotiations were going on both sides."
Ever since the publication of the Argus review into the performance of the national side, the players' major concern about its findings has surrounded the addition of greater performance weighting to the central contract system. The review was critical of the landscape created by the current system, suggesting Australian cricket had lapsed into a "county cricket mentality" where simply doing enough to earn another annual retainer was enough.
"The panel has real concerns, shared by many stakeholders, that the MOU is not fully aligned with the current needs of Australian Cricket," the review said. "In particular it rewards relative performance among CA-contracted players, but not absolute performance of the team and its players against international peers.
The result is that today's players are being paid substantially more in real terms than their counterparts in the dominant teams of recent times, despite far inferior results. A number of stakeholders have suggested that this is negatively affecting the culture of Australian Cricket, in that players can make a very comfortable living without necessarily achieving excellence."
Both parties quickly agreed that the number of CA contracts should be reduced, and will likely be pared down from 25 to 18. However the issue of performance-based contracts took time to be smoothed over, leaving Marsh and Howard to discuss the matter in great detail after the players responded coolly to CA's first offer, explained to a general meeting of the team on the day of the Allan Border Medal towards the end of the home summer.
"From what I hear I think both sides are going to get what they want out of it," Hussey said. "I know through the Argus review there was a strong performance-based component of that. How much was I think what the discussion was about. Players are open to the performance-based part of the ACR. That's fine, it's just about how much.
"That's where the negotiation was from that particular point. I believe that they're pretty much there on that particular point. There's a couple of other issues that are taking more discussion than that particular one. I think the players are comfortable with the way things are going."
Marsh said his talks with Howard had reached a key point, with a meeting to follow later this month at which the MOU had the potential to be resolved. "We have an important meeting in the week after next," Marsh told ESPNcricinfo. "We have made some good progress but there are still some key issues to resolve. At this stage we can't predict when or if the issues will be resolved but we believe negotiations are heading in a positive direction."
In February, the CA chief executive James Sutherland pointed out that Australia's players would have been paid the same amount if they had lost 4-0 at home to India, rather than winning by the same margin as they did. "No one likes change but we're really confident we've got a proposition that's in the interests of the Australian players and the players who do the work and win the games," he said. "Players get paid the same amount if we win four-nil against India or we lose four-nil. Does that make sense to all of us?"