Even as they returned to the bargaining table for a last-ditch negotiation with the league, the NHLPA on Wednesday formally filed an application in Montreal with the Commission Des Relations Du Travail (Quebec Labour Relations Board) on behalf of “at least 16” Canadiens players, asking that the NHL’s planned work stoppage be declared illegal in Quebec.
The filing comes on the heels of an apparently successful challenge to the lockout in Alberta.
The statement from the PA announcing the challenge in Quebec did not list the names of the Habs players on the application.
It did say that an emergency hearing on the application is scheduled for Friday morning, at 10:30 a.m. ET, in Montreal.
“In Quebec, an employer is not allowed to lock out employees unless they belong to a union that has been certified by the Quebec Labour board. The NHLPA is not a certified union in Quebec,” the statement added.
On Monday, Dave Stubbs of The Gazette broke the news about the potential of a challenge in Quebec.
Josh Gorges and Mathieu Darche explained later Monday in a teleconference their reasons for petitioning the Commission Des Relations Du Travail (and Dave Stubbs posted the complete audio of that teleconference on HIO), saying they wanted to play and felt a work stoppage was not needed, that negotiations could continue while the season went on as scheduled.
The grounds for the challenge in Quebec differ from the one in Alberta. Under Alberta labour law, the NHL cannot hold a lockout vote unless it has first requested a mediator. The league did request a mediator and the province appointed one on Aug. 21. But the NHLPA argued in its challenge that the league showed no willingness to participate in the mediation.
The Alberta Board cancelled the hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning on the NHLPA’s challenge when the NHL apparently withdrew its claim against the union’s filing.
That could pave the way for the Flames and Oilers players to report to training camp as scheduled regardless of what happens in the 28 other NHL cities, setting up a bizarre situation in which the players on these teams will be paid once the regular season is scheduled to begin, even if they have no games to play.
As Gorges and Darche explained on the teleconference, if the filing on behalf of the Canadiens players proves successful, they too would report to camp and go through whatever preseason preparations they could. And they also would be paid starting in October.
“We are pleased that the league has decided to withdraw its application (for a lockout vote in Alberta),” Don Zavelo, NHLPA general counsel told Scott Cruickshank of The Calgary Herald , said. “We believe they can no longer claim that their threatened lockout is one that would be permitted under the laws of Alberta.”
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly had called the NHLPA tactic “a joke,” adding that he wished the players were using their time and energy to negotiate a deal instead.
“At this stage of the bargaining, I wouldn’t be treating anything as a joke,” NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr told Canadian Press. “The proceeding in Alberta is a proceeding that they instituted and then abandoned.”