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'Disclaimer of interest' move no solution for NHLPA

CBC

When I was a kid, my father tore the back stoop off the house leaving a four-foot drop from the door to the ground.

It remained that way for months. My mother tried everything she could think of to keep us kids away from it. She'd lock the door, block it with a chair, put up warning signs — all to no avail.

Eventually one of us would run through and take a nasty fall.

It always seemed to me that it would have been a much better idea just to fix the stoop.

In some ways for me, this is a metaphor for what is happening in the NHL/NHLPA dispute.

Rather than just fixing things, everyone seems bent on looking for ways to make it worse.

Now we hear the players might not leave their union, but rather the union may leave them in a move formally referred to as a “disclaimer of interests.” It basically means the union refuses to represent the players.

(Normally, unions use the “disclaimer of interests” to move away from financially unfeasible locals — those locals where expenses far exceed income).

The "disclaimer of interest" is a less formal process than decertification. The process is faster, too.

But it doesn’t necessarily speed up the overall situation. Whether by disclaimer of interest or decertification, the result is the same — the union disappears. That move could create a much worse situation.

First of all it, the disclaimer process is not necessarily automatic. A union doesn’t get to say “I divorce you” three times and then walk away. There is still a “good faith” test that could — and likely would — be demanded by the NHL.

The action can also be stopped by the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) if it believes the union does not have a sincere desire to give up representation.

Second, assuming the NHLPA is successful, and no union exists, all matters of dispute would then be dealt with through the courts by way of individual anti-trust lawsuits.

So any negotiations from then on would not be aimed at achieving a new collective agreement, but would be to resolve lawsuits.

Third, the process does not ensure any expedited resolution of the issues between the players and the league. So all those issues would still be outstanding.

Finally, there is also another potentially major wrinkle here.

The league could simply suspend operations until such time as it can deal with a union and negotiate a new CBA. This would be the safest approach for the league as it would avoid any potential anti-trust actions.

Given that they’ve locked the players out and no games are being played, such a move would not be a stretch for the league.

Which brings me back to the stoop. I don't really know whether it could have been fixed or not. But however broken, it was the only thing preventing a four-foot fall. It was better to have one than not, especially when you don't know how you’re going to replace it.

Dan Oldfield is the lead negotiator for the Canadian Media Guild, a former journalist, and a longtime hockey fan.

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