But the union argued that the NHL is using this suit ‘‘to force the players to remain in a union. Not only is it virtually unheard of for an employer to insist on the unionization of its employees, it is also directly contradicted by the rights guaranteed to employees under ... the National Labor Relations Act.’’
The court scheduled a status conference for the sides Monday.
The sides have traded four proposals in the past week — two by each side — but none has gained enough traction. Getting an agreement on a pension plan would likely go a long way toward an agreement that would put hockey back on the ice.
Fehr believed a plan for players-funded pension was established before talks blew up in early December. That apparently wasn’t the case, or the NHL has changed its offer regarding the pension in exchange for agreeing to other things the union wanted.
The salary-cap number for the second year of the deal — the 2013-14 season — hasn’t been agreed to, and it is another major point of contention. The league is pushing for a $60 million cap, while the union wants it to be $65 million with a floor of $44 million.
In return for the higher cap number players would be willing to forgo a cap on escrow.
Both sides seem content on the deal lasting for 10 years, but they have different opinions on whether an opt-out should be allowed to be exercised after seven years or eight.
The NHL proposed last Thursday that pension contributions come out of the players’ share of revenues, and $50 million of the league’s make-whole payment of $300 million will be allocated and set aside to fund potential underfunded liabilities of the plan at the end of the collective bargaining agreement.
Last month, the NHL agreed to raise its make-whole offer of deferred payments from $211 million to $300 million as part of a proposed package that required the union to agree on three nonnegotiable points. Instead, the union accepted the raise in funds, but then made counterproposals on the issues the league stated had no wiggle room.
‘‘As you might expect, the differences between us relate to the core economic issues which don’t involve the share,’’ Fehr said of hockey-related revenue, which likely will be split 50-50.
The NHL is the only North American professional sports league to cancel a season because of a labor dispute, losing the 2004-05 campaign to a lockout. A 48-game season was played in 1995 after a lockout stretched into January.