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Players’ union looks at labour laws to block NHL lockout

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Not sure how this will all pan out.......but the Players want to begin the season even if an agreement isn't worked out. It seems at the moment that they have found and are planning to move forward with some existing Canadien laws that for one don't recognize the NHLPA as a Union in Quebec and an Alberta law that states there must be a mediator prior to any lockout.

By David Stubbs

MONTREAL - The National Hockey League Players’ Association is prepared to use Quebec labour law, if necessary, to try to prevent the National Hockey League and the Canadiens from locking out Habs players on Sept. 15.

And the NHLPA is ready to move this week in a bid to stop any lockout of Canadiens players, with the NHL being on record as saying unless a new collective agreement is in place by next Saturday, it will lock out players from all 30 league clubs and postpone the start of training camps and, likely, at least the start of the 2012-13 season.

At issue, according to the NHLPA, is that the players’ union is not a group certified by the Quebec Labour Board. The NHLPA adds that, under Quebec law, an employer – the Canadiens, in this case – cannot lock out employees – Habs players, in this case – unless they are represented by a union certified by the QLB.

The Canadiens players, the NHLPA said Sunday night, have the right to apply to the QLB for an order that would prevent Canadiens ownership from locking players out after Sept. 15, when the CBA expires.

Canadiens players, through their Montreal-based lawyer, Michael Cohen, sent a ‘cease and desist’ letter to the owners of the Canadiens and to the NHL on Friday, Sept. 7. Unless they cease their threats to lockout, the players will make an application to the Quebec Labour Board this upcoming week seeking to stop the Canadiens from locking out their players.

If the Quebec Labour Board agrees, the NHLPA contends, it could order the owners of the Canadiens not to lock out the players or to end a lockout in Quebec if one has started.

Donald Beauchamp, the Canadiens senior vice-president of communications and community relations, said Sunday night that the club would have no immediate comment on the developments.

On Sunday, Canadiens forward Erik Cole, the alternate NHLPA representative on the Habs (Chris Campoli is the main rep), said:

“The players are committed to reaching a fair deal with the NHL owners through CBA negotiations and we have told the NHL that the players are willing to continue to negotiate if an agreement isn’t reached prior to the expiration of the CBA.

“The NHL seems content to lock out the players if an agreement isn’t reached this week,” Cole added, “and we would like the Quebec Labour Board to step in and inform them that their lockout would be in direct violation of the Quebec labour laws.”

The NHLPA could have employed a similar strategy with the NHL and Canadiens during the 2004-05 lockout, which killed that entire season, but chose not to use provincial law at that time.

The union went to the QLB to start the process to have the NHLPA certified in April 2005 but the NHL formally opposed this, according to the union.

In Quebec, replacement workers can’t be used during a lockout. Being certified would therefore have stopped the Canadiens from using scab players in Year Two of the lockout.

The most recent CBA between the NHL and its players was reached in July 2005.

Once the lockout was over, the NHLPA said, the union eventually withdrew its application with the QLB.

The NHLPA has been in contact with Ontario and Alberta in recent days with similar-style correspondence to determine the legalities of a lockout.

The NHL recently requested that the Ontario Ministry of Labour not appoint a conciliation board, the NHLPA said, adding that this was intended to allow the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators to lock out players on Sept. 15.

The NHLPA received a notice from province’s director of Dispute Resolution Services accepting the NHL position in this matter this past week, the union said.

The NHLPA had stated that it would welcome the intervention of the Ministry of Labour and requested that they act as a voluntary mediator for this dispute, adding that the NHL refused to agree. As a result, the Ontario Ministry of Labour has helped “paved the way” for a lockout in Ontario.

In Alberta, the NHLPA filed a challenge last Friday with the Alberta Labour Relations Board regarding the Edmonton Oilers’ and Calgary Flames’ request to hold a “lockout vote,” as it’s known.

This vote is required if owners of the two Alberta teams can legally lock out their players.

Both the NHL and NHLPA are in disagreement with some of the mechanics involved, including use of a mediator.

The NHLPA is arguing that the NHL,“in their headlong rush toward a lockout on Sept. 15, has flouted ... rules and should not be permitted to hold a lockout vote.”

Should the Alberta Labour Board agree with the union, the NHL would not, the PA says, be able to legally lock out Oilers and Flames players.

Alberta discussions are continuing.

The NHLPA said Sunday night it was “exploring its options” in B.C. or Manitoba.

In the U.S., any NHLPA move to block a lockout would likely travel through the National Labour Relations Board.

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Another interesting read:

Owners of Oilers, Flames may hit legal snag if NHL locks out its players

EDMONTON - The owners of the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames may have to climb through some hoops if the National Hockey League locks out its players on Sept. 15.

In Alberta, a lockout vote is required by the NHL owners in order for Daryl Katz, owner of the Oilers, and the group of businessmen who own the Flames, to legally lock out their players if there is no new collective bargaining agreement in place by the Sept. 15 deadline.

Under Alberta law, the NHL has to request the province appoint a mediator, who theoretically could work to have an agreement in place between the warring sides before the NHL owners can hold a lockout vote. A mediator was appointed by the province on Aug. 21.

The National Hockey League Players’ Association has filed a challenge to this, however. It argues that the NHL’s lockout vote would be defective because the league failed to take certain steps when it asked for a mediator for the dispute.

The NHLPA contends the league has shown no interest in using the mediator to try to get a resolution. It says the league insisted the mediator leave his task after three days with no meetings convened between the two sides. The law requires the mediator to wait 14 days.

In essence, the NHLPA is arguing the league is trying to rush the clearance for a lockout without following the necessary steps in Alberta. If the Alberta Labour Relations Board agrees, the league couldn’t legally lock out Oilers winger Ryan Smyth or Flames captain Jarome Iginla or any other Edmonton or Calgary players.

“The players are committed to finding a way to reach an agreement without a lockout and we’re hopeful the Alberta Labour Relations Board will assist in these efforts,” said former NHL defenceman Mathieu Schneider, now executive director Donald Fehr’s special assistant.

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