Just Put the Biscuit in the Basket, Already.

Today was supposed to be a magical day – the first day of the National Hockey League (“NHL”) season.  Instead of watching the B’s take on the Flyers tonight, this hockey fan will be spending the evening watching the Birds and the Yanks battle it out in the Bronx, as the NHL is heading into its 26th day of its fourth labor dispute since 1992.

In an attempt to stop the lockout, the National Hockey League Players Association (“NHLPA”) filed a complaint with the Alberta Labor Relations Board (“Board”) seeking a cease and desist order to refrain from an unlawful lockout, pursuant to section 87 of the Labor Relations Code.  While the NHL, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers opposed the complaint, claiming that the Labor Relations Code does not apply to the bargaining relationship governing the NHL.  Additionally, they claimed that the Board lacked jurisdiction to regulate the relationship between the NHL, its clubs and the NHLPA.

The issues presented before the Board included:

  • Whether or not the Board had jurisdiction to determine the legality of the lockout in Alberta?
  • Could the parties avoid the Board’s jurisdiction by simply agreeing that the Code does not apply to their relationship?
  • Can a union waive its right to insist on full compliance with the requirements of the Code, and if it can, does that bind its members?
  • Whether or not the NHL is an “employers’ organization” under the Code?
  • What would be the practical effect of the Board declaring the lockout unlawful?
  • Should the Board use its discretion to refuse to declare the lockout as unlawful?

After a hearing on September 21, 2012, the Board determined that because the NHL and the NHLPA have “never established definitively which jurisdiction’s labour laws govern their relationship,” thus “even if the Board has jurisdiction to declare the lockout unlawful, it should not exercise its discretion to do so [in the heat of a strike or lockout.]”  And grounding its decision in a public policy argument, refused to make any kind of decision on the issue and dismissed the NHLPA’s application in its entirety.

In its opinion, the Board stated that the NHLPA was “squeezing jello to watch were it lands, in order to determine what approach to take” in regards to jurisdiction, while attempting to “do what it takes to put the biscuit in the basket”.

The full decision of the Board can be found here: http://www.alrb.gov.ab.ca/decisions/GE_06474.pdf.

NHL and NHLPA: stop messing around.  Learn from the NFL and NBA.   Come to the table and bargain about the Hockey Related Revenues and get this season underway already.  Because, at the end of the day, we all just want to sing the Hockey Song again.

Special thanks to Larry Kanner, who taught this author everything she knows about hockey, the Washington Capitals (go CAPS!) and all of the words to the Hockey Song.

#NHL, #lockout, #GaryBettman, #NHLPA, #CBANegotiations

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