The CPA Contest

Having looked at the history of rider unions last week one theme was the divisions with unions forming and splitting. Here’s the follow up piece looking at the upcoming presidential election there’s a contest and even if the numbers say Millar has no chance it’s still useful to air ideas.

Millar is unlikely to get elected, to put it mildly. Each rider with the 18 UCI World Tour and 27 Pro Continental teams has a vote, as do the women athletes who have signed up as members. However the CPA is an umbrella organisation for national unions so in the case of the French, Italian, Spanish, Swiss, Portuguese and North American unions they have a block vote to cast on before of their male athletes. The French, Italian and Spanish unions account for hundreds of riders and will almost certainly vote for the incumbent Gianni Bugno meaning hundreds of other riders would need to show up at the CPA’s annual general meeting on the fringes of the World Championships next week. Only the field for the road race isn’t that big meaning there won’t be that many riders from other nations around and besides a share of those participating in the Worlds might vote for Bugno. Few to zero riders will travel to Innsbruck just to attend the CPA meeting.

So if there’s no chance of change, what’s the point? Partly because the election contest itself has crystallised some of the problems and having a contest is allowing some of these issues to be aired. For some time there’s been frustration from some riders with their union, some do seem genuinely annoyed but others probably the majority are just curious and concerned. A contest means appealing to voters, ie the riders. The union hasn’t ignored its members, it’s been working on their behalf but it’s not reached all of them with regular updates or just the basics of what they’re doing. Put another way the CPA often isn’t part of the conversation when there’s an incident that affects the peloton such as a risky road or something about the sport’s structures like the move to shrink team sizes for the races implemented this year.

Many riders, be they, say, British, German or Danish don’t have a national association and so they don’t have a delegate acting on their behalf which means if they want to vote they have to show up in Innsbruck. Some have taken to social media to bemoan the voting system and ask for an electronic vote. Their frustration at being unable to vote unless they go in person is understandable but the CPA has no provision for electronic voting and the irony is that the union would probably have to have a vote on the matter to approve this. Fair enough as you can’t change the voting system mid-way during an election only the CPA’s communication on this hasn’t been “that could be good way to involve everyone, we could explore this for the future” but instead to tweet a link to a study from a government ministry in Finland saying online votes aren’t good, the subtext reads “go away“.

Similarly the same CPA Twitter account has been posting pro-Bugno messages rather than staying neutral during the campaign or offering Millar a platform. It means two sides taking aim at each other when notionally they’re supposed to be the same side, after all that’s the dictionary definition of a union, no?

Now riders aren’t expected to be delighted with their union but there are a few quick fixes to make. For starters an annual membership pack should go out to riders with a summary of the CPA’s work for the year and maybe a copy the accounts, this might well end up in the bin or deleted for some but at least it would help riders who are interested know more. Similarly Gianni Bugno or other CPA staff could attend more races.  The quid pro quo for this would be for riders who want better representation to found their national associations so as to have their voice better heard by delegates, although easier said than done as they tend to be funded by a levy on prize money and if there were to be, say, a Danish association then there are few races in Denmark meaning little prize money meaning any levy would be tiny compared to the stable finances enjoyed by the likes of France, Italy or Spain with their big calendars and rich races.

If David Millar wanted to win he’d have prepared a lot of the ground in advance, lobbying for a vote change months in advance, calling for a special meeting to change this and touring every team bus for months on end to build up support, especially among Italian, French and Spanish riders. Still if his bid is doomed, Millar’s candidacy has enlivened the contest and turned the procedural into the conversational by raising several issues and it ought to make the CPA stronger, after all if riders have been indifferent or even ignorant about their union then now it’s in the spotlight. It might encourage the larger nations to form national associations.

The funds of the CPA are literally the riders’ own money, they give up a slice of their prize money in order to fund the union and the retirement fund pot only the riders don’t know much about the union and how it works. The clumsy communication of the CPA suggests a siege mentality and if this isn’t what they mean, then it still comes across this way and for all the good work done, riders don’t want to subscribe to something that isn’t right by their side but one upshot of the CPA’s communication is that The perception matters as it’s how many riders seemingly feel about their union and as history reminds us, past rider unions have vanished because they failed to unite the peloton.

32 thoughts on “The CPA Contest”

  1. Honest question INRNG: do you think it is possible to unite the peloton? Or at the very least get a signifcant majority of the riders behind union’s manifesto or action plan or so?

    • Yes. The fact that riders know little of the CPA is a case in point, it’s sometimes not part of the conversation, eg when team sizes are reduced it reacts to the news rather than being part of the decision-making process.

  2. I think Bugno might indeed be the right choice, as he is independent and seems not overly invested in an ideology. Exactly, what you need as someone representing others. But I also think, he needs help from someone, who is openmided, knows how to engage. Because, as INRNG rightfully notices, it is not so much about reality, but often more about feelings, grievances etc. So you need someone, who can deal with such things in a positive way, without taking them personal.

    Personally I would absolutely love to see Jeremy Roy in such a position, I think he would be perfect. He dared often to say something in the past, when others in the peloton preferred to keep their head down and were quiet, he is knowledgeable, respectful towards others, often absolutely funny and seems like a good, nice human being. Plus he just retired/retires, so he knows many of the current riders. There are other riders I would think good in that role, like Warbasse or Bardet, but as they are still riding, this is impossible.

    So, Monsieur Roy, wouldn‘t that be something you‘d like to do? Help cpa out?

    • Hardly any of the peloton know who Bugno is. He doesn’t engage with them. The riders say they never see him. He said recently that he was disappointed by Froome’s criticism and he wanted to speak with him but couldn’t contact him. What sort of union can’t contact their (mandatory) members and denies them a vote? Particularly the one that has probably paid in more money than any other.

  3. Well done! Seems to be a standard-issue problem with democracy in any form, whether it’s CPA, Brexit, Donald Trump or the mix of fascists and morons in-charge in Italy at present – few really want to get off their a__ and do anything beyond complain or perhaps vote for someone making unrealistic promises to fix everything for them.
    Despite plenty of examples of what unity and solidarity can do to effect change, apathy and short-sightedness rule the day. The pro cycling peloton is no different, so bring on the World’s and Lombardia!!!

  4. “The union hasn’t ignored its members, it’s been working on their behalf”

    Says who? Is this your editorial comment, INRNG? From the outside looking in it all seems very “don’t question us about anything, now please go away”. In response to why certain things aren’t done their only response seems to be “no one asked us to before”. Bugno and whoever else is there don’t seem the most forward thinking bunch and were I, say, a British rider where there is no national association, and good reasons have been but forward as to why a union based on block votes from associations is bad, then I’d be extremely peed off that I am myself expected to traipse to Innsbruck only to find huge associations wielding block votes. This is clearly not democratic and without one member, one vote it never will be.

    Time for a rival union to this joke operation, methinks.

    • Good point about the union working on the members behalf…or not.

      INRNG, your columns are generally quite good reading, but on occasion (ie… ASO fiances) you seem to accept statements that may be less than entirely factual. The one member one vote process would be very easy to implement, even at this late hour, so this certainly has the appearance of those in power wanting to maintain the status quo.

      The most important thing to any politician is to get reelected.

      • The union has worked for the members, as set out above it’s just often not told them about this work and/or not done enough work.

        One member one vote could be implemented but if you read the CPA’s rules they (Article 12 if you want to read it) state the president is elected on the basis of votes cast by those attending the meeting so it’s not so obvious, which explains the suggestion of holding an extra meeting ahead of the annual meeting to enable this.

      • Millar would need to have had his little thought bubble a bit earlier to do that, as any resolution to amend the by-laws needs to be submitted 30 days before the general assembly meeting (Article 11) where it is to be considered.

        Any extraordinary attempt to push it through against the by-laws would be quickly ruled as illegal upon appeal to a civil court.

        It being too late to do anything this year now, Millar should submit his proposed resolution in plenty of time for the 2019 AGM. If passed, it would take effect for the next presidential election with there being plenty of time to organise the logistics of the voting system.

        • I understand Millar was invited back in January 2017 to join the CPA as joint head. The CPA has not heard from Millar and now he pops up with an agenda etc.

  5. Reported by VeloNews today, Bugno quoted about Froome:

    “I’m happy for the challenge, but we shouldn’t put the CPA or how it works in bad light. I’m asking that to Froome. Don’t put the CPA in doubt,” Bugno continued.

    “I don’t have his email, his number, he’s a ghost for me. I have to go through his team. If someone wants to get me, it’s easy, my number is available.

    *CPA President for the past 8 years doesn’t have the email address of the 4x TDF champ? Bugno is something else*

    • If the British rider do care so much about the voting system, why didn’t they join and change this earlier? Seems to me, they care only about CPA at all since one of them is a candidate. Pathetic.

      • In fairness sometimes people are hard to contact, I don’t think this is anything huge against Bugno.

        It does show his lack of influence, but say the next four time TDF Champ is Hungarian and not an ex-national team mate of Millar, there’s a chance he might no have his email either…

        I assume those at the top are the least in need of a union until it suits them or they reach an age where it becomes obvious to them they have the power to affect positive change, so it makes sense Froome might not have given the CPA much thought till now, and nor given Bugno his contact details…

        (Calm down new Dave, nothing that bad here)

    • Ever since former Velonews staff moved to Cyclingtips, Cyclongtips has become anti-everything. I used to read the page daily. I don’t recall reading it at all in 2018.

  6. Writing as a former union president, I can say it might be the most thankless job in the world. Like the CPA presidency, mine was a voluntary (i.e., no salary) position, though I came to realize that most members believed I got a salary and perks. My experience was that when things were good in our industry, members gave themselves credit, and then things weren’t good, they were quick to shout “What the hell is the union doing about this!? They’re worthless, the bums!”

    We had mail-in ballots, and advertised the elections as well as possible, and rarely got even 20% of the ballots back. Maybe 2-3% of the active membership attended the monthly membership meetings, were were within a few miles of virtually all the covered work venues. Of course, I’m not going to defend the CPAs block voting, or the ludicrousness of it being an international union but requiring attendance to the site of the World Championships to vote for those members not in a block. Both of those mechanisms are indefensible, if only because they enshrine disenfranchisement. My suspicion is that even with individual electronic or mail voting procedures, most of the riders would feel little loyalty to their union, but the way things are done by the CPA it pretty much guarantees most riders will have a knee-jerk disconnection from their union. If it’s also true (implied by one the quotes in a linked article) that Bugno rarely goes to races or meets the members the union, then it really does look like a sham.

    What I’m saying is that having real union solidarity is tough, especially in today’s world, but the CPA isn’t even trying for the patina of solidarity. And saying “oh, it’s too late to change things for this election” is pretty silly, since as a casual follower of pro cycling I’m known there was huge frustration with the CPA for years. This is news to them?

    • Generally I think it pays to not give too much to the „he said, she said“ thing.

      I think, what not gets too clear in this piece, is, that of course, like all things, the way the cpa and it‘s votes functions, has grown historical. It is only a short time, that riders from smaller countries (regarding cycling federations) are regularly present in the peloton in greater numbers. I think it is normal, that things have to evolve, when the premises chance, but this naturally happens only AFTER things changed. That is where we are right now. And I really would be interested to hear, if the unhappy riders only once tried to contact their union and voice their unhappiness in a definite, constructive way -this is, what I would do, if I am bothered by something and unhappy – or if all they did was tweeting or giving interviews about it.

      And in all honesty: Rules are rules and it is not the right of someone to say: those rules we follow and these we don‘t like, so we ignore them (ok, looking at politics, maybe isn’t such a good thing in this regard right now). So when there is a rule, that changes to the voting system can only be made with the members voting on them, I think it is the very least, that they act by that rule. And for changes, you have to know, what changes do you want? Should the cpa look up the riders twitter and go after rumours? So there would have to be first a survey or anything, to work out, how to proceed, how to finance it etc. Imagine, if they wouldn‘t adhere to the rules! And one thing to consider is, that Bugno is the president, not the dictator of the cpa kingdom. He has member votes to listen and adhere to.

      I find often in these things, that the expectation of people is totally unrealistic and mostly emotional. I am pretty sure, that many riders never cared to ask what the cpa does (which is to me very strange. If I pay money somewhere I want to know, for what), but are CERTAIN anyway, it is not enough!

      I think Bugno doesn‘t help himself with being overly defensive, but can understand it a bit, when I read how certain people are lobbying against him. It is what happens regularly these days. People do what they do and think things can still be done in a normal, civil, reasonable way and suddenly a storm gets brewed over them and they never recover from that. „The rule says, changes can only be made….“. Well, how could you have a rule, that is absolutely absurd!“ „Again, when we made the rules, there were only… „. „ Wasn’t it your duty to foresee, that the world changes?“ and so forth. Once you are in the defense, it isn’t actually any longer about how and why things are like they are, it is only about righteous bashing.

      I think Bugno should listen to what is said now, should not‘t take the attacks personal, although some of them are and try to improve the things, that are mentioned right now. I could understand, if Bugno threw the towel in, but think it would be wrong. He invested time of his private life to the union, so he must care for it and he doesn’t do it for the limelight (obviously) like others, so that all are good things. There are, I don’t know, 1000 races in the WT and continental calenders (is that too high a number, too low?) and there is no race, where the whole peloton is there, so I find it strange to demand, that Bugno should go to „the races“. But I would expect, he goes to the Tour, the world championships and maybe the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix. If he didn‘t do that, he should start to. Oh, I remember right now, doesn‘t he fly a helicoptre at races? So he IS at races.

      The idea, the people have about the influence, possibilities and grandezza of the cpa seems absolutely inflated. For the cpa to have influence, the riders first would have to be united anyway. Good luck with that! I don‘t think the riders and their federations will ever be able to be united. If another union is founded, just wait 3 months and then the complaining about them will start. It is just human, as you pointed out. I just hope, that whatever happens is a good, constructive thing and not just powergames in the overall fight over cycling. But the way this plays out, I have my doubts.

      • I tried to make it clear that from my experience I can see both sides of this issue, but you seem to have taken my post as an attack on Bugno. Let me try again – as someone who once was the president of a fairly large union, it’s a tough job. Union members want the benefits of solidarity, but rarely want to put themselves on the line. Union members often side with their team, their employer, their agent, their personal best interests over the larger group. That’s the playing field that virtually any union leader gets. And in that environment, some of the worst things a union president can do are:
        (1) stay behind the scenes and keep the activities of the union relatively opaque,
        (2) not communicate regularly and directly with members proactively and regularly,
        (3) tell members who complain about the way things are done that “this is how we’ve always done it, these are the rules…”,
        (4) do anything that appears undemocratic, or which appears to favor certain subgroups within the union.

        Those things are all toxic. They will destroy a union. Bugnos has been president for 8 years, I’ve seen it repeatedly mentioned that he’s at races as a pilot, and yet pro after pro say they don’t know who he is and have never spoken to him. Bugnos in his quotes confirms that he doesn’t even communicate with the membership via email, much less face to face.

  7. Whatever one thinks about the individuals the methodology behind election of the president is fundamentally incorrect. Providing some countries with a block vote to express probable diversity of opinion is surely wrong while the requirement to be present in Innsbruck to vote is simply anti-democratic. For those who lived in the UK through the sixties and seventies the system recalls the corrupt systems used then for the election of trade union officials.

    Concerning the absence of salary, if the position is merely that of a figurehead with a light workload, that might be appropriate if a correctly paid and competent lower tier exists. If riders require consistent presence and serious leadership from thier president then a salary is necessary.

    Froome, whether one likes him and his team or not, appears one of the most lucid, balanced, intelligent and thoughtful characters in the peloton. When he expresses an opinion that opinion is probably both widely shared and worth listening too. Bugno’s stated inability to contact him is simply feeble.

  8. I love this website, but I think inrng missed the mark. “Gianni Bugno or other CPA staff could attend more races. The quid pro quo for this would be for riders who want better representation to found their national associations so as to have their voice better heard by delegates” …

    The riders don’t want more of Bugno. They want him gone after 8 years of his inaction and silence while job numbers were cut.

    The riders don’t want to form new national associations. They want one strong union to represent all pros — regardless of nationality.

    A pro’s workplace conditions are not dictated by if he was born in Austria, Australia, or the Isle of Man. Eisel, Renshaw, and Cavendish are all subject to the same policies of Team Dimension Data. They are all subject to the same dangers on the roads of Tirreno, Tour of California, the Tour de France. Nation-based associations have nothing to do with negotiating a strong labor contract with the trade team employers.

  9. One might very reasonably ask Bugno why, having been in place since 2010, he has done so little to address the lack of democracy in the organisation over which he presides.

  10. So what do the riders’ dues pay for beyond Bugno’s salary and how much is that. Seems like it would be a nice job to have as I, who considers themselves to be an avid fan, cant really remember anything Bugno had done over the last 8 years outside the odd PR statement.

    • I believe it was stated that he doesn’t receive a salary, just expenses. And I haven’t seen it stated that the riders pay dues. Instead, 7% of the race prize money goes to the CPA, with 5% of that slated for the rider retirement fund (which apparently has been badly managed, or inadequately funded, or something – it’s not quite clear what the issue is, which could well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the CPA). So 2% of prize money goes to administer the CPA. At least, that’s what I think I understood.

  11. On the electronic voting issue…

    I teach software engineering at a global top 100 university, and some of my friends really are world experts on e-voting systems.

    The problem with electronic voting for general elections is that it is very difficult to a) ensure votes are tallied accurately, and b) ensure that there is no way to figure out how an individual voted after the fact.

    If you are prepare to be slightly less rigid about criterion b, then criterion a becomes a whole lot simpler to satisfy.

    As such, I think electronic voting could safely be used for voting in future CPA elections, provided riders were prepared to accept that a trusted third party (there are a number of companies set up to run corporate and other organisational ballots) would know how they voted, at least until the final count was certified.

    • …And hover in the air!
      “two sides taking aim at each other when notionally they’re supposed to be the same side, after all that’s the dictionary definition of a union, no?” Hmm…well, yes. Ideally. But in the real world inter-union rivalry can be pretty insane; you just have to look at the past 18 months in the TUC in the UK. Such behaviour always makes me think of the bit in The Life of Brian when Spike Milligan makes his cameo; schisms form because people refuse to listen and dig their heels in.
      123 has a good point about Jeremy Roy. Top idea.
      I’m not a huge fan of Mr Millar, but I tip my hat to him on this stand.

  12. My petition to Millar who spent his early days in HK :Stay with family, be a father, be a husband, be a bike factory owner in Taiwan, be someone where your mates can find you in one piece, sober , one healthy normal mind, be your own master… unless you work for a handsome pay, business class travel, welfare treatment a normal decent human being can hardly resist… weigh between 6M euros/yr and family ties, between UN diplomat position in NY, between Olympics Committee members … show me the money, show me the email contact list … oh how many foreign languages does s/he need to speak other than the usual English.

  13. If I had a negative analytical finding I think that I would perhaps expect a union representative to contact me, especially if I was a Grand Tour winner, and that this had all been unfairly released to the press, to see if there was anything that could be done to help.

    I don’t mean that Froome deserves special help, nor am I making comment on the rights and wrongs of his test failure. Just that you’d expect a union to try to engage with one of your most prominent members.

    What involvement has Bugno had with the UCI and race organisers with respect to spate of moto related incidents with pro riders, and also Nibali’s unfortunate episode at Alpe d’Huez? I suspect that a union representation would only take place behind closed doors and would generally be revealed by each of the stake holders.

  14. A new CPA, a better CPA and shiny bright shark toothed CPA? guess what, its going to need Euro, dollar, Swiss franc! Before the Internet (not here) hangs Bugno just consider you can’t run a Ferrari on a Trabant budget. As Kevin K mentioned above, members are quick to complain and slow to support which is so typical of any collective workplace. I shall watch this develop with interest, but the pitchfork remains in my barn!

    • You’re exactly right, the CPA is nothing without both financial investment and emotional investment. It occurs to me that one thing the CPA desperately needs is the equivalent of “shop stewards.” Each team should be invited to select a rep to the CPA, someone who would be a direct conduit of information between the CPA leadership and the peloton. Riders could pass their day-to-day concerns to the steward, stewards could talk among themselves at races (over concerns about course safety, for example), and the leadership could easily poll the stewards about issues to tackle.

      One thing that amazed me during my multiple terms as a union president was how many members were utterly ignorant of what the union actually did, and how it effected change. This was despite a monthly newsletter, frequent email updates, a very active blog, monthly membership meetings, frequent visits to workplaces by the business agent, and so on. But there were generally a few key people at each workplace who had the temperature of their peers, and could be counted upon to get a sense of what the membership’s concerns were, and also relay meaningful information back.

      Steppings is essentially saying that finding a superb CPA president is not sufficient. I think that is the unfortunate part of this debate. It’s become about Bugno’s style and personality compared to Millar. That’s a distraction from the real issues that need to be addressed.

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