CHLPA Threatens OHL Lawsuit

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CHLPA Threatens OHL Lawsuit October 26, 2012 8:31 AM

Days after filing for labor certification in Alberta, the CHLPA is taking a shot at the Ontario Hockey League.

In a six-page letter sent to every club in the OHL, Canadian Hockey League president David Branch and Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson on Thursday afternoon, a legal team representing the CHLPA threatened to sue over the leagues’ “blatant disregard for the bare minimum working standards that have been set for employees.”

CHLPA LETTER TO OHL

Among the charges made in the letter is that players are not paid minimum wage or given overtime or vacation pay as part of a series of allegations that junior hockey breaches the Employment Standards Act in Ontario. Such as claim is being seen as viable under Canadian Labor Law and may be the CHLPA’s strongest issue in Ontario to date according to Canadian legal experts.

According to TJHN sources similar notices are going to be filed in Western Canada and Quebec today.

Until earlier this week when applying for labor certification in Alberta, the CHLPA’s legal battle has been relatively quiet. Only a memorandum referencing action in the United States had been published. TJHN has learned that attorneys in Alberta are working for the CHLPA in a pro bono capacity. Attorneys working in a pro bono capacity do not normally do so unless they see a "win" for their client or themselves when generating publicitiy for their firm.

Unfortunately for the CHLPA, the Alberta Labor Relations Board shot down their request to expedite its path to being certified. The ALRB stated:

“None of the arguments advanced by the CHLPA, in the Board’s opinion, amount to compelling circumstances to waive the wait period in section 37(1)(a). In virtually every certification application the Board receives, the applicant union is concerned about the employer’s knowledge of who is behind the certification drive,” said the Board in its ruling. “Further, many certification drives involve perceived disadvantaged individuals in need of representation and ‘protection’ from the employer. These are not concerns unique to this application and do not present ‘compelling circumstances’ that warrant the Board exercising its discretion to waive the 60 day waiting period.”

With Alberta Certification off of the fast track, applications in other provinces and eventually the United States are still expected to follow. The CHLPA will have to wait until December 4th to file its certification application in Alberta now. Legal experts in Calagary are now saying they expect the CHLPA to be certified eventually, but that they may face hurdles along the way which may drag certification and actual organization movements out for quite a while.

The Alberta denial though has not slowed the CHLPA one second.

The letter to the OHL was signed by Michael C. Mazzuca of Toronto-based Gibson and Barnes LLP, one of three legal firms listed on the CHLPA website. Mazzuca is a former OHL player who played with the London Knights and Kitchener Rangers in the late 1990s. TJHN has questioned where the motivation to form the CHLPA came from, perhaps now we know where the movement is coming from?

“In the event that these ongoing violations are not immediately rectified, please be advised that we intend to commence legal proceedings,” the letter reads. “Furthermore, we will take the necessary legal action should the OHL or any team take any reprisal action… against any player(s) for exercising their legislative rights and remedies” to unionize.

If such a lawsuit were initiated, one legal expert has speculated that the CHLPA could move to have all revenue generated by the Memorial Cup Championship held in escrow until the suit is settled. Would the threat of that income being frozen be enough to bring the three Major Junior Leagues to the bargaining table with the CHLPA?

It has become very clear now that the legal arm of the CHLPA is not only holding a pen or sitting behind a desk any longer, they are starting to flex some muscle.

By Joseph Kolodziej

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