NHL, Union Resume Collective Bargaining Agreement Talks
After five hours of talks in two sessions Wednesday, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league has received indication that the NHL Players Association is putting together a proposal, and the NHL is urging the union to make it.
Daly said a “variety of sources” both privately and publicly tipped off the league that the union was working toward putting forth a new offer. The two sides have not swapped proposals in more than three weeks.
“We understand you’re working on a proposal. Make it to us,” Daly said of the league’s message to the union during Wednesday’s negotiations. “Let’s not stand on formalities. If you a have a proposal, make it.”
The league has been imploring the union to submit something new for weeks and hopes the possibility might jump start a negotiation process that has become stagnant.
The union also is encouraging the league to make moves of its own, multiple sources told ESPNNewYork.com. Even if the league’s next proposal doesn’t include significant movement on economic issues, it is believed the union would like to see some concessions made in other areas, such as the contracting issues.
Despite a small, private session between Daly, commissioner Gary Bettman and the union’s top two Donald and Steve Fehr prior to Wednesday afternoon’s larger group session, Daly said little progress was made.
“Overall, today, we didn’t really move the ball forward that much,” he said.
Daly said the top four did not discuss the core economic issues that continue to divide the two sides, although Fehr said the meeting did touch on the key financial concepts. Fehr did not go into detail about what exactly was covered, although no substantive numbers have been exchanged since the days leading up to the lockout.
In the larger group session that lasted more than four hours, the two sides covered a range of health and safety issues, as well as miscellaneous legal issues.
During that meeting, a decision was handed down by the Alberta Labour Relations Board rejecting the union’s claim that a lockout was illegal under Canadian provincial law.
Fehr said he was “disappointed” with the outcome and found it “odd” that the ALRB chose not to get involved on the decision.
“We think that’s unfortunate. We think they should’ve gotten involved,” Fehr said. “Obviously, it’s a win for the league and they get to continue the lockout they want so badly without any interference from the Alberta labour board.”
Daly expressed his frustration that the union made the application at all and said he felt the action impeded the potential progress of labor discussions.
“It was really a distraction to the process. It wasn’t good faith bargaining,” Daly said.
Although labor talks have seemed to yield little progress, the rhetoric from both sides seems to becoming increasingly incendiary.
In a recent interview, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said the union would not rule out going after the salary cap should the lockout endure, a comment that did not sit well with the league.
“None of those comments were a surprise to me,” Daly said. “If that’s the direction they choose to go in, that’s up to them. I don’t make decisions for them, obviously. They’ve suggested they want to get the players on the ice soon. I can pretty much assure you if they make that proposal, it won’t get the players back on the ice soon.”
More than three weeks into the lockout, the league has canceled the entire preseason schedule and all games through October 24. When asked Wednesday about the resulting economic effect, Daly said the lost games will cost the league upwards of $240-250 million.
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