'Dangerous precedent': Group fights to protect junior hockey players' rights as workers

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'Dangerous precedent': Group fights to protect junior hockey players' rights as workers

'Dangerous precedent': Group fights to protect junior hockey players' rights as workers

A group representing junior hockey players in Canada is hoping to convince the P.E.I. government to withdraw a bill that would affect players' protections under the Employment Standards Act. 

If the bill passes, it could mean junior hockey players won't be entitled to minimum wage.

Randy Gumbley is a spokesperson for the Canadian Hockey League Player's Association (CHLPA), a group that offers representation to former and current members of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL).

He said if the bill is passed, it would strike out protections afforded under the Employment Standards Act, including minimum wage.

"These young men need protection," said Gumbley. "They have a right under the Employment Standards Act to be protected."

Gumbley said he believes junior hockey players should be entitled to those rights other workers have under the Act and that includes fair compensation.

Players exempt in some other provinces 

Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and British Columbia have put similar limiting legislation in place. New Brunswick also plans to.

Gumbley said fair compensation is important now because most players' careers will end after their junior days.

"Some may say 'hey, they got it all made', that 1.5 per cent of them actually go on the the national hockey league ... but there's 98.5 per cent of those kids that need the support and need the direction from someone else," he said.

"Players are athletes and not employees'

If the bill passes here, players with the Charlottetown Islanders will be affected.

In an e-mail statement sent to CBC, Craig Foster, President of Operations for the Charlottetown Islanders, said, "We have always believed that our players are athletes and not employees and this legislation confirms that."

"Our objective is to provide the support both on and off the ice to allow our players to progress in hockey as far as talent and work ethic can allow," said Foster.

Foster said the team also looks forward to joining other province's who have exempted players from labour laws.

A spokesperson for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League also responded saying players are provided with equipment, coaching, and mental health counseling.

They are also provided with billet families, scholarships and financial stipends said the league.

But Gumbley suggested, if the bill passes, workers in other professions could also, eventually, lose their rights. 

"I think it's a very dangerous precedent being set," he said.

Not decided yet

​After meeting with P.E.I.'s Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, Sonny Gallant, Thursday afternoon, Gumbley said he feels confident the bill won't go any further.

He's also calling on the minister to set an example for the rest of the country by protecting its players.

In a statement, Gallant said it hasn't been decided yet, if or when the bill will go for a second reading.

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