Government spoke too soon on CHL employment issue, says players’ lawyer
Josh Mandryk talks to the Canadian Press about the Ford government’s promise to help the OHL avoid employment standards legislation
When the commissioner of the Ontario Hockey League sent an open letter to the premier asking him to “clarify” whether employment standards legislation applies to major junior hockey players, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Tibollo issued a statement saying that “our government is behind you,” and that “I want to reassure the OHL and the people of Ontario that we are actively looking at providing this clarity to the OHL.”
The Minister responded without giving the players an opportunity to weigh in, and possibly without knowing much about the issue.
The question of whether major junior players are “employees” who are entitled to employment standards protections is currently before the courts in a class action lawsuit. The class action has been certified, but the OHL is appealing that decision. Rather than letting the courts decide the legal issue, the OHL has hired lobbyists and is apparently hoping that the government will amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to exclude major junior players from its application, a move that would allow OHL teams to continue to pay the meagre “allowance” that players currently receive.
The Canadian Press interviewed Josh Mandryk, one of the lawyers representing class members in the class action, about the Minister’s eager response to the OHL’s letter.
Joshua Mandryk, a lawyer at Goldblatt Partners, says that Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Tibollo made a public statement backing the Ontario Hockey League last Thursday without hearing both sides in the players’ lawsuit seeking wages from the CHL.
“Certainly we had hoped and anticipated that we had been able to respond before the government did,” Mandryk told The Canadian Press.
“Minister Tibollo did not have the benefit of our letter and our input when he made his statement, and you know of course we certainly hope he takes into consideration the circumstances facing these players when they craft the ‘solution’ they are referring to.”
Mandryk says that in the meantime Branch is using a “power move” to help persuade public opinion in the league’s favour rather than waiting to let the courts decide an outcome, so Mandryk followed up by sending his own letter to government officials within hours of Tibollo’s response.
“Lobbying efforts we’ve been made aware of, where the OHL is pushing the government to exempt players from employment standards and we’re trying to communicate to the government that that’s the wrong-headed move.
“If we want to figure out if these folks are employees or not, which we’re certain they are, there’s a matter before the courts and the court’s in a position to do that.”
Mandryk says that Branch’s timing of the letter isn’t coincidental with a new provincial government recently being elected.
“Up until this point Ontario has said no to their requests and have refused to exclude these young workers from employment standards and I think they’re taking another kick now that there’s been an election and a new government,” said Mandryk.
“(The government) is receiving pretty public and vocal pressure [from] the league, (Branch’s) open letter is pretty strong and we know they’ve registered to lobby.”