NHL Lockout Mediators

NHL Lockout Mediators

In a bid to break the deadlocked negotiations between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association, both sides have agreed to appoint mediators from the U.S.  Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS).

The National Hockey League players have been in negotiations for a new labour agreement since July.  The negotiations were initiated after the existing collective bargaining settlement, reached in 2004-2005, expired in September of this year.  Although initially stating that the players would continue playing even without an agreement at the outset, we are in the 73rd day of the lockout.

The key areas under negotiation concern financial and contracting arrangements, with the debate over the former focusing on how to reach a 50-50 split of revenue between players and the professional body.  Although both sides have agreed to this in principle, the players had previously taken 57 percent of revenues under the expired agreement, and the players are keen to reduce their slice of revenues gradually over 5 years.  In real terms according to the NY Times, the difference comes to $182 million.  For the latter point about contracts, the owners are proposing to make players wait an additional year to become eligible for free agency and for it to become more difficult to go to salary arbitration.

In a bid to end the stalemate,  FMCS mediators have been invited in, and will hopefully change the dynamics of how the negotiation has been conducted so far.  They will be able to structure the negotiation in a private and confidential environment: until now, the dispute has largely been played out in public, which has in turn encouraged the parties to posture rather than talk meaningfully.

For both clients the mediators will explore the strengths and weaknesses of each case, encourage both parties to be creative, and act as a reality checker against the ramifications of not settling.  In this circumstance, this will mean various legal options which may include union decertification, unfair labour practice charges, or antitrust suits.  For both the players and owners, it is in their best interest to engage fully in the mediation in order for a speedy and fair resolution to this dispute.

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