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Alberta labor board sides with NHL in lockout ruling

Wednesday, 10.10.2012 / 6:27 PM / News

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Alberta labor board sides with NHL in lockout ruling
The Alberta Labour Relations Board on Wednesday dismissed in its entirety a National Hockey League Players' Association application for an injunction to declare the NHL's lockout of its players unlawful in the province.

The Alberta Labour Relations Board on Wednesday dismissed in its entirety a National Hockey League Players' Association application for an injunction to declare the NHL's lockout of its players unlawful in the province.

"We dismiss the NHLPA’s application in its entirety," the ALRB decision concluded.

"We are pleased with the Alberta Labour Board’s ruling today that the lockout of Players is effective on a League-wide basis, including in Alberta, and we are extremely appreciative of the decisive manner in which the matter was handled," Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "We are hopeful that this ruling will enable both the League and the NHL Players’ Association to focus all of our efforts and energies on negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in order to get our game and our Players back on the ice."

The NHLPA argued that locking out players from the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames was unlawful under provincial labor law.

The filing from the NHLPA, along with a similar filing with the Quebec labor board, sought to mandate to the League that players in the employ of the Oilers, Flames or Montreal Canadiens could use team facilities and practice together.

"The players are obviously disappointed with today’s decision. Unfortunately, the Alberta Labour Relations Board decided not to exercise its discretion to determine whether the owners’ lockout violates Alberta law. We will consider our further options with regard to this case," the Union said in a statement. "In the meantime, the players want to play, the fans want to watch the game, and the many workers and business owners who are dependent on NHL hockey for their livelihood want the season to start. We remain committed to reaching a fair agreement at the earliest possible time and hope that the NHL begins to show a willingness to do so."

The ruling, handed down at 5 p.m. ET, cited four main points in siding with the League.

The Board said the League-wide structure of the lockout would blunt the practical impact of any potential ALRB ruling in favor of the NHLPA.

"No one suggests that our order would affect teams or players outside Alberta," the decision stated. "There is no dispute the lockout declared by the NHL is legal and valid pursuant to the NLRA. The parties are struggling to find a resolve to this and, it is our expectation this is nothing more than an unhelpful distraction from their efforts."

Also, the Board felt there were inconsistencies about jurisdiction introduced into the arguments, declaring:

"We do not wish to encourage parties to take purely strategic, inconsistent positions about jurisdiction in the course of a dispute. Whether parties can agree to confer or avoid jurisdiction or not, or whether a bargaining agent may waive jurisdiction on behalf of its members or not, it simply does not advance good faith bargaining for a party to agree one week that the Code has no application to the relationship and the next week to argue that it does."

The Board also stated there have been attempts at good-faith bargaining between the sides, rendering moot the argument by the NHLPA that the technical requirements of the preconditions to a lockout in Alberta were not fully met by the NHL.

The ALRB said, "For the most part, the preconditions to a lockout or strike in the Code are intended to maximize the opportunity for the parties to engage in rational discussion and good faith bargaining and to minimize precipitous, ill-considered reliance on their economic weapons. In these circumstances, we are satisfied the parties have engaged in extensive bargaining and the significant impact of the lockout on the parties is well understood and appreciated."

The Board also argued that its intervention would do more harm than good to the ongoing negotiating process, stating:

"The result of such an intervention by this Board would be to effectively remove the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers teams and players from the league-wide collective bargaining process that the parties have historically engaged in and has been established and recognized under the NLRA. The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers clubs could not participate in the league-wide lockout in which the rest of the League is engaged as part of the current collective bargaining process."

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