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Sides in NHL labor fight meet with mediator
NEW YORK (AP) - The NHL and the players’ association met separately with a federal mediator throughout Friday morning and well into the afternoon with no sign that they would return to the bargaining table anytime soon.
Federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh has been shuttling back and forth between the hotel in which the union is working, and the league office. As of late afternoon, the sides had made no plans to get together.
After marathon talks that lasted deep into Wednesday night, the sides have remained apart with the exception of two smaller meetings on Thursday.
The lockout reached its 111th day Friday, and the sides have only one week to reach a deal on a collective bargaining agreement that would allow for a 48-game hockey season _ the minimum the NHL has said it will play.
Commissioner Gary Bettman set a Jan. 11 deadline so the season can begin eight days later.
The players could be looking to wait until Saturday night to return to the bargaining table when it is expected that the executive board will again have the authority to exercise a disclaimer of interest that would allow the union to dissolve and become a trade association.
A vote among union members was initiated on Thursday, and players have until 6 p.m. Saturday to cast their ballots that would allow the board to take the action of the disclaimer. An earlier vote passed overwhelmingly last month, but the union let its self-imposed deadline to go by on Wednesday night without acting on it.
A restoration of authority to go the route of the disclaimer might be the leverage the union wants before it starts negotiating again.
Representatives from the league and the union met twice Thursday for small meetings, one dealing with the pension plan, but never got together for a full bargaining session. A long night of discussions Wednesday that stretched into the early morning hours didn’t end well and created Thursday’s lack of activity.
The sides can’t afford many more days like that.
All games through Jan. 14, along with the All-Star game, have been canceled, claiming more than 50 percent of the original schedule.
The talks appeared to take a downward turn late Wednesday after the players’ association passed on declaring a disclaimer of interest.
The discord carried over to Thursday when Bettman had said he expected to resume negotiations at 10 a.m. at the request of the mediator. But the union was holding internal meetings then and didn’t arrive at the league office until a few hours later.
When players and staff did get there, they did so without executive director Donald Fehr. The group discussed a problem that arose regarding the reporting by clubs of hockey-related revenue, and how both sides sign off on the figures at the end of the fiscal year. The union felt the language had been changed without proper notification, but the dispute was solved and the meeting ended in about an hour.
The wait for more elaborate talks went on, and didn’t end until the players returned _ again without Fehr _ for a meeting about the pension plan. That one lasted just under two hours, and again the waiting game ensued.
By David Keene
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