WICB wins MOU/CBA battle
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – The West Indies Cricket Board won a major battle in their long-running case with regional players union, WIPA, when the High Court in Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday ruled in their favour regarding the contentious issue of the MOU/CBA.
Justice Ricky Rahim struck down an injunction brought last March by WIPA, dismissed their claim for US $10 million and ordered the body to pay the WICB’s court costs of T&T $900 000 (close to US $150,000)
The court ruling ends a protracted standoff between the two entities, one which had kept relations fragile and threatened to undermine the smooth running of the sport in the region.
In a statement issued Tuesday evening, the WICB said it would be reaching out to WIPA in order to find a lasting solution in the best interest of the game.
“The WICB wishes to assure that the best interests of the players will remain paramount and intends to engage WIPA to chart the way forward,” the Board said.
“In this regard the WICB will not make any further statements at this time.”
WIPA took the matter to court after the WICB wrote to them in March, 2011 giving notice of a revision to the Collective Bargaining Agreement/Memorandum of Understanding. At the time, the Board also indicated that if there was no revision to the agreement by June 30 of the same year, they would move to terminate effective September 30.
The players union subsequently filed an injunction in the High Court, contending that the MOU/CBA remain in effect and could only be terminated by mutual consent of both entities.
However, the WICB argued that the agreement possessed a three-year roll-over life span from October 1, 2005 and therefore agreed there could be no termination unless by mutual consent, during the life of the agreement.
Once the three-year term expired, the WICB said, the MOU/CBA would be kept in force for an indefinite period until either party gave reasonable notice of termination.
In his ruling, Justice Rahim said the court did not believe that the intentions of the parties, coming from a situation of discord, would be that the only way the Agreements could be terminated was by mutual consent.
“One only need look at the history of high tension and passion with which both sides championed its respective causes to see that mutual consent to terminate the agreements is something unlikely,” the judgement stated.
“It is unlikely given the industrial nature of the contracts that an unworkable and outdated Agreement would be binding between parties in perpetuity. As time changes and player needs develop, outdated agreements would prove to frustrate the very aim of the Agreements, and that is to develop a framework where the parties would be on equal footing.”
The court further agreed with the WICB that the Agreement could be terminated by “reasonable notice” and said it disagreed with WIPA’s argument that this would “flout business commonsense”.
“To the contrary, the court is of the opinion that the implication accords not only with business commonsense but also with the clear intentions of the parties to craft an agreement that also consists of an industrial relations component,” the judgement asserted.
The court also sided with the WICB on the two other grounds on which WIPA based its submission – that of estoppel and the dispute resolution mechanism contained in the agreement.
Regarding the issue of estoppel – barring a party from denying or alleging a certain fact owing to that party’s previous conduct – the court said WIPA had failed to prove this.
With reference to the dispute resolution clause, the judgement said it was not accurate to say there was a dispute if both parties were unable to reach agreement “on all or some of the terms”.
“The court is of the view that while the negotiation and discussion are likely to be more consistent with the existence of a dispute, in this case, it is not open to the claimant to refer to an impasse in negotiations as to the existence of the very root from which the power to arbitrate springs ab initio (from the beginning) as a dispute.”