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The latest CBA/lockout sideshow: League allowed GMs, owners 48 hours to speak to players

23

October

So, it came to light on Tuesday that the NHL for 48 hours last week allowed its owners and general managers to speak to players about the ongoing lockout that is threatening to wipe out the season. The league gave instructions in a memo conversations had to be initiated by the players. There also were other rules of conduct fashioned in order for the league to avoid accusations of unfair labor practices, and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an e-mail to Canada's Globe and Mail he is "confident" the league passed muster.

Even so, the Players' Association certainly isn't happy about the tactic.

Here's what Steve Fehr, the union's special council, told the Canadian Press: "Most owners are not allowed to attend bargaining meetings. No owners are allowed to speak to the media about the bargaining. It is interesting that they are secretly unleashed to talk to the players about the meetings the players can attend, but the owners cannot."

Here is the memo the NHL sent to its owners and GMs, courtesy of Yahoo Sports:

"We understand that some of you are being contacted by one or more of your Players and that your inability to respond substantively is creating some awkwardness in your relationships.

Accordingly, and only between now and 11:59 pm (local time) on Friday night (10/19), the NHL By-Law 17.17 prohibition will not be applied to conversations that result from you being contacted by your Players -- PROVIDED, THAT ANY SUCH CONVERSATIONS ARE STRICTLY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE RESTRICTIONS SET FORTH IN THIS MEMORANDUM. A failure to follow these rules can both set us back in our effort to resolve this work stoppage and cause serious legal problems and will be deemed a violation of NHL By-Law 17.17 (subject to appropriate penalties).

Therefore, please read these rules carefully and be certain that you adhere to them without exception.  They have been designed in light of the fact that the NHLPA is, in fact and in law, the sole collective bargaining representative of the Players and that any effort to motivate the Players must be to have them act through their union, not instead of or in opposition to it.

As a matter of labor law you are permitted to express the views and opinions of the Club and the League concerning the proposal currently on the table.

YOU MAY NOT: "Negotiate" with a Player.  This means you may not explore alternatives or variations to the proposals on the table from either side because that would be prohibited "direct dealing".  You may not ask "What do you want?" or "What do the Players want?"  or "What should the League propose?"  If a Player tells you that he or others are trying to find a different approach, he should be told that all ideas and suggestions should be presented to the Union and not directly to you or anyone else in the League except through the Union.  You may not ask him what he or others have in mind.

If he volunteers what he has in mind you should not respond positively or negatively or ask any questions but instead refer him to the NHLPA.  Likewise, you may not suggest hypothetical proposals that the League might make in the future or that the League might entertain from the Union."

So, is this a big deal? Multiple reports said the NHL did not inform the Players' Association of what it was doing, which gives the air of an end run. And perhaps it makes the union leadership trust the league even less than it already does. But unless the Players' Association makes a formal complaint, this probably becomes just another sideshow for what should be the main event -- getting a new collective bargaining agreement and the season underway. Besides, it is not known how many of these conversations even took place, and it is debatable how much influences they would have on players who have stood so strongly together during negotiations.

But until the sides decide they are going to get serious about negotiating a settlement to the lockout, this is what gets the headlines. It's a shame. 

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 3:12pm]

    

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