This summer, representatives of an organization calling themselves the CHLPA came out and announced that they were starting a Union for Major Junior Hockey Players in Canada ( and some US Cities). Since that time we have seen the Union name a director in Georges Laraque as well as partner with several high profile labour law firms in Canada.
The Union has been actively recruiting members, through the use of CHL alumni and trying to get players to buy into organizing and joining this union.
The Union’s original stated goals were to improve the quality of the CHL education package, which currently means that a player gets 1 year of post-secondary education paid for, for every year they play in the CHL. However this scholarship expires if the player does not start school within 18 months of finishing his eligibility in the CHL.
The Union was looking for these teams (who only pay small stipends to their players) to expand the education program. However this week a new development has occurred.
Derek Clarke, a spokesman for the CHLPA says that several players have been disciplined or intimidated by their clubs for joining the union or speaking positively about it. As a result the CHLPA has taken things to the next level.
In a letter addressed to Hockey Canada, the OHL, and to all of its member clubs the CHLPA has threatened legal action in Ontario claiming that the League is in violation of the Employment Standards Act as the players are not paid minimum wage and that they will file a class action suit on behalf of the players should the league continue to ignore their rights to organize as a union.
At this point, I’m sure the fans don’t want to hear about more labour unrest, as all the NHL issues are certainly weighing on all hockey fans, but this is a situation to monitor going forward.
It would appear the entire issue here will centre on defining whether or not OHL players are employees as governed by the Ontario Employment Standards Act. I’m sure the two sides will each have differing opinions if we got that far, however I’m not sure we ever will get there.
Some major questions remain: How many CHLers have joined the union? What percentage? Will this union become a formal bargaining agent for all CHL players?
Will the CHL recognize the legitimacy of the union and discuss player education and possible compensation?
Should anyone, anywhere take Georges Laraque seriously as a head of a union?
Is this likely to lead to a strike or lockout? The answer here is likely no due to the fact the union doesn’t have everyone on board, and that this would likely go through the legal system before such tactics are used.
We’ll give you more as we hear it.
Don’t forget to catch Ben Kerr on “Puckheads” on Last Word Radio every Wednesday at 10pm, along with columnist, Max Vasilyev. Access archived episodes here or on iTunes by searching for “Last Word Radio” in podcasts.
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