Labour battle overshadows Sea Dogs semi-final game

Labour groups say they will be out in force at Friday's Saint John Sea Dogs playoff game against the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in the QMJHL at Harbour Station to protest against planned changed to provincial labour laws.

Three weeks ago, Labour Minister Donald Arseneault was at Harbour Station to announce plans to alter the Employment Standards Act. The proposed changes would exempt amateur athletes, like those playing for the Sea Dogs, from several provisions of the act. 

- 'This is like slave labour': Group furious amateur athletes may be denied minimum wage 

- Saint John Sea Dogs defenceman Oliver Felixson, 18, has Hodgkin's lymphoma 

Among the proposed changes raising the most ire among labour groups is the exemption of players being paid a minimum wage. 

An ongoing battle, including a potential class-action lawsuit, is attempting to secure a minimum wage for major junior hockey players.

Several provinces, including Nova Scotia, have already granted exemptions. Teams assert they couldn't financially support themselves by paying players. They also assert hockey players aren't employees. 

Saint John and District Labour Council president Iris Lloyd disagrees and said the hours and effort of players deserve compensation. 

"It most definitely is a job," said Lloyd outside Harbour Station. 

"It's time that we fully support them."

Pamphlets planned

As fans file into the arena Lloyd said she, and others, will be handing out thousands of pamphlets to fans. 

The sheets call on fans to contact the government and urge them to abandon the changes to the act. 

"[The government doesn't] seem to be doing anything to help the workers," said Lloyd. 

Lloyd thinks the province is more interested in helping employers and she hopes fans will agree. 

"So that's why the public, the unions, we're all going to stand together here to help protect the employment standards act and help promote and support our employees," said Lloyd.

The province is taking feedback on the changes until May 5.

The Sea Dogs and Chicoutimi are tied at two games piece in the best-of-seven game semi-final.