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Unifor to hold meeting Wednesday in effort to unionize junior hockey players

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Unifor president Jerry Dias (seen here) says that the unionization of junior hockey is a long time coming.

GALIT RODAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Unifor president Jerry Dias (seen here) says that the unionization of junior hockey is a long time coming.

MONTREAL - Canada's largest private sector union plans to hold an organizing meeting Wednesday in an attempt to begin the process of representing major junior hockey players from around the country.

Unifor was created a year ago through the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions.

Unifor president Jerry Dias said Monday that the unionization of junior hockey is a long time coming.

"It's really slid under the radar screen because that's how people like it," said Dias. "The facts are the owners are doing quite well and this is a subject and this is a discussion that nobody wants to have."

The development comes over a year after a failed attempt to unionize junior hockey players in Nova Scotia. A would-be union withdrew its certification application with the provincial government in November 2012. Dias said Unifor was approached by the failed union in June for help.

There are 60 teams in the Canadian Hockey League, which is the umbrella organization for the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. A CHL spokesman said president David Branch wasn't immediately available for comment.

Dias said Wednesday's meeting starts the process of creating a board of directors and a legal entity. He invoked several reasons to unionize players, including pay, restrictions on university scholarships and health insurance.

"The key reason we're involved in this is it's the right thing to do," he said. "And frankly we're not going to get scared off by a bunch of Bay St. lawyers. We're not going to let lawyers determine the future of the kids. They're going to make their own decisions. There's one thing about being 15 but there's something else about being 18, 19, 20.

"Ultimately if people want a collective voice we're going to make sure they get it."

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