By Meesh Shanmugam, Staff Writer
While most of us spent the past few days celebrating Thanksgiving and looking for the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, the NHL was hard at work
negotiating its own deal cancelling more games and looking for their next step. After eliminating all games through December 14th and cancelling the February All-Star game in Columbus on Friday, the NHL and NHLPA finally announced a [potential] step forward on Monday. The big news was that both sides have agreed to meet with United States Federal Mediators in an attempt to find a resolution to this labor dispute.
Federal Mediation & Conciliation Services (FMCS), the agency of the US government that handles labor disputes and contract negotiations, will meet with both sides as early as Wednesday to assist with negotiations. FMCS assisted in both the National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) labor disputes last year, but both leagues accepted help before their lockouts had even cost them any games. FMCS began working with the NFL in February last year and their labor dispute ended in July. Meanwhile, the NBA sought out FMCS in October before losing two months of their season and coming to an agreement to start play again in December.
This is not the first time the NHL has agreed to involve a mediator. The NHL and NHLPA utilized the National Labor Relations Board during the 2004-2005 lockout, but to no avail. Both sides met with mediators three separate times, the last of which was on February 13th, 2005, before cancelling the season on February 16th, 2005.
That leaves us with the $3.1 billion question:
Will mediation save the season?
mediation can do no harm to negotiations at this point. Both sides clearly need help to find a resolution and this is the first step – admitting it. The sides are “only” about $180 million apart and a fresh view from mediators might help bridge that gap quickly. The 3rd party presence should also help the sides focus on getting a deal done instead of posturing or playing a public relations battle. Overall, the use of a mediator could be the final piece of the CBA puzzle.
mediation is only worthwhile if both parties are willing to negotiate and listen to a mediator. Mediation is not binding, so it technically is worthless if either side fails to agree with or acknowledge what a mediator is suggesting. Currently, both sides seem to have provided their “best offer” and neither side wants to compromise any further. If those stances remain consistent, then mediation will not change a thing. A third party can do a lot of things, but they do not include removing egos, stubbornness, or an unwillingness to negotiate.
there is a slight chance that mediation will help but I would not put my money on it. The NHL and NHLPA have both “compromised” to a point, but the NHLPA has given up more than the NHL and the NHL seems unwilling to make a new offer. Both parties will certainly listen to a fresh point of view, but there is a strong chance they have already evaluated and considered every point of view possible. Simply put, neither side would be willing to forego a full season had they not thought through all of their goals and consequences already. There is only so much a mediator can do when both sides know what the worst end result is and seem completely willing to follow that route.
While no one can be certain how mediation will affect the negotiations, at least the process is moving forward. In this case however, moving forward might mean a final decision on the 2012-2013 season instead of a resolution to the labor dispute. For better or worse, perhaps mediation can put an end to the daily search for CBA updates soon. When this part of the process is over, it is very likely that the NHL will either be two weeks away from returning or two days away from cancelling the season.
The end is approaching…
(Note: Just as negotiations have been a struggle, mediation is turning into a struggle as well. One mediator has already been replaced before the process has even started.)