BY KEITH LACEY
The general manager of Sudbury Downs says the leadership of the Northern Horseman?s Association (NHA) is not providing accurate information or solid leadership to their members.
A total of 101 members voted 99-2 against a tentative deal reached last week between the NHA and Sudbury Downs owner Pat MacIsaac.
Live racing was scheduled to return to the only harness racing facility in Northern Ontario Saturday night if the deal was accepted, but the dispute
will drag on with no end in sight following the overwhelming rejection of the tentative deal.
?I?m horribly disappointed and think it?s just terrible,? said Sudbury Downs general manager Ken Le Drew. ?I feel the leadership of this association is
doing a great disservice to its members
?The NHA leadership is claiming there were changes between the deal reached in principle last week and the written contract presented to them and that is unequivocally, absolutely not true.?
Robert Bodkin, president of the NHA, disagrees saying the issues over the length of race season, number of race dates and other issues were far
too ambiguous and the membership clearly wasn?t satisfied with the written proposal.
The NHA membership believed it had a contract calling for an eight-month contract, but the written proposal didn?t have specific dates listed and
meant Downs? management could start the season in late May and end in early December, making the season only six months long.
?There were very few definites in the written proposal, but a lot of things about letters of intent and resolving things at a later date...the bottom line is the deal didn?t address the membership?s concerns,? he said.
?I guess we?re back to square one.?
Le Drew says if Bodkin and other members of the negotiating committee wanted clarification on any issue, all they had to do was pick up a phone and ask questions, but no contact was made before the vote was held Sunday.
The NHA will be presenting a counter-proposal to management, but he doesn?t have a lot of faith the end is near in this dispute, said Bodkin.
Many of his members can?t make a living racing six months of the year and that?s why the issues of length of season and number of race dates is so important and must be spelled out clearly in any written proposal, he said.
Le Drew said the person hand-picked to represent the interests of NHA members has resigned his position out of frustration because he believed the deal proposed by management was more than sufficient to end this dispute.
?There are some current members of the leadership of this association who have no desire to negotiate any kind of deal,? said Le Drew. ?We?ve offered binding arbitration and been turned down and we offered a contract that was worked out by the person they hand-picked...and they turn it
?The leadership is not giving proper information to its members and I feel is showing horrible leadership.?
A large majority of the NHA?s 120 members don?t own a single horse, but are listening to leaders who aren?t giving them accurate information, said Le Drew.
Sudbury Downs is getting more and more interest from horse owners from outside the Sudbury area who are interested in racing and if that interest continues to grow, the racetrack is more than willing to go to live racing with or without the support of the NHA, said Le Drew.
Claims by the NHA that some of its members ?are starving? are again not true as only a handful of members rely solely on live racing to make a living
and the vast majority work other jobs or are retired on good pensions, said Le Drew.