The task force appointed by the WICB to assess the contracts dispute involving the players, WIPA, and the board, which led to the abandonment of West Indies' tour of India in October 2014, has said that all three parties were at fault. The task force - comprising Michael Gordon, Wes Hall and Richard Cheltenham - said it was imperative that "WICB must now build pillars of trust and respect with the players", and that the WIPA had a "very real role to play" in this process.
The West Indian players pulled out of their tour of India after four ODIs, leading to the abandonment of the fifth one-dayer, a Twenty20 international and three Tests. The dispute between the players on one side, and WIPA and WICB on the other, however, had begun even before the first game. In several letters written to the WICB, West Indies ODI captain Dwayne Bravo had expressed displeasure over the new player contracts, wanted the old ones back in place, and had also demanded that the WIPA chief Wavell Hinds resign. When neither of these conditions was met, the players abandoned the tour.
"We are of the view that the fundamental and overriding excuse for the players withdrawing their labour was the attempted imposition of new contractual terms of employment on the players negotiated between the board and WIPA, which the players saw for the first time after they got to India," the task force said in its report.
It said it was not able to calculate with certainty, even with the help of a labour relations expert, the compensation of each player under the new arrangement, and that there was no mention of any incentive scheme in the players' contracts.
"There is something fundamentally wrong in sending a team to faraway places with only an historical view of their terms of employment and then to radically change those historical terms after they arrive in that distant place," the report said. "It was the conclusion of the players in India that their compensation would be reduced by some 70%. In our view it is irrelevant whether their calculations were accurate or not."
The report said there were "very real questions" as to even whether the MOU signed in September was a contract or not. "Both Michael Muirhead and Dave Cameron, CEO and president, respectively, of the board, took the view that it was an enforceable contract," the report said. "Wavell Hinds on the other hand was equally firmly of the view that the September MOU was not in and of itself a contract but rather an agreed understanding that would lead to a collective bargaining agreement in much the same way as the prior MOU/CBA [collective bargaining agreement] arrangement had worked.
"It is trite law that if two parties to a negotiation do not agree on the effect of a document coming out of these negotiations, then there is no meeting of the minds and hence no enforceable contract. The board and WIPA were attempting a sea change in the financial arrangements for West Indian professional cricketers without ensuring that there was understanding and acceptance by the WICB's employees, the touring cricketers."
However, the task force also said "a significant proportion of the blame" laid with the players who were in a hurry to abandon the tour though Cameron and Hinds were due to arrive in India in four days' time to discuss the issue. "Senior players in any overseas squad bear a great responsibility to set standards and create examples for the more junior players to follow. This, the task force felt, the senior players failed to do."
Among the eight recommendations made by the task force, it said, "The players' contracts must be given to players at least three weeks before a tour. The players must return them at latest, one week before the tour. Failure to return a signed contract will disqualify the player from selection on the team."
The task force also recommended the new collective bargaining agreement should contain a provision, which stipulates that before the "withdrawal of labour or any industrial action" WIPA and the players should give a minimum period of notice - "say 14 days" - to the WICB. "This would obviate any circumstance as occurred in India. Breach of such a condition would be a breach of contract.
"The WICB should convene bonding sessions twice yearly between players, management and the board to foster harmonious relations. Individual members of the executive committee which normally meets more often than the board should be selected to oversee and solve any personal or cricketing problems revealed by players."