Habs players fight lockout before labour relations board
Montreal Canadiens players and the NHL Players Association are teaming up today before the Quebec Labour Relations Tribunal to ask that the pending lockout not be applied to the team because it violates the province's labour laws.
In an argument lasting nearly two hours, lawyers for the players said an employer can't lock out employees unless they're with an accredited union, which they say the players association is not. They say the labour relations board has jurisdiction and can rule in this case.
"(The board) has the authority here to say that this is how it works in Quebec and the system has to be respected," argued lawyer Michael Cohen. He added that anyone who operates a business in Quebec has to respect the law, be it the French language charter or minimum wage regulations.
They want the tribunal to declare the lockout a violation of the labour code and to order the NHL to abstain from imposing the lockout. That would enable the players to begin training camp and to be paid.
"The issue is not focussing on ensuring the players get paid," said association spokesperson Alexandra Dagg.
"The players want to play. They don't want to have a lockout, we want to be able to continue to play hockey. What we are trying to ensure is that the NHL can't just continue to ram a lockout down on the players across Canada and the U.S."
The NHL says it should not be considered as an employer and that the labour laws don't apply to them. Lawyers said they had three hours worth of arguments.
The NHL could face fines of up to $50,000 a day in the event of a lockout under Quebec's labour laws.
The players association says a similar motion was filed in Alberta, applying to the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers.
"If we can possibly not have a lockout in the province of Alberta and the province of Quebec, we can have an all-Canadian Stanley Cup final," Alexandra Dagg joked.
The board had said it would take the case under deliberation and render a decision between tonight and tomorrow's midnight deadline when the collective agreement expires.
Photo: Shuyee Lee