FISH-NL calls on FFAW to come clean on details of marine escort fees; show compassion to members who owe back dues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 29th, 2017

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is calling on the FFAW to come clean and reveal the “administrative fee” the union charges fishing boat owners hired by oil companies as marine escorts.

On another front, FISH-NL is calling on the FFAW to show compassion to members who owe back dues — given the slash in quotas and severe ice conditions — and allow repayment over a broader time frame.

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“The FFAW is feeding off its membership at every chance,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “At the same time, when the membership is vulnerable and expects the union to show some compassion, the FFAW turns its back on them.”

Commercial fishing boat owners are often contracted during oil and gas operations to guide marine vessels (e.g. tow vessels and the Hebron platform) through open water, avoiding fishing gear. 

It’s rumoured that oil companies pay fishing boat owners upwards of $10,000 a day, but the FFAW — which acts as a middleman through the so-called Fishing Guide Vessel Program — takes more than 40 per cent off the top. Harvesters have complained to FISH-NL of the “astronomical” fees charged them by their own union.

“If that’s the case harvesters are being gouged thousands of dollars by their own union,” said Cleary, adding an official for Hebron refused to divulge exactly how much the FFAW-fishing boat owners are paid for marine escorts. The official said the information is considered commercial, “and not something we would release.”

FISH-NL has also called on the FFAW to show compassion to union members who owe back dues.  An inshore harvester pays $25 a week in dues for every week they fish, with minimum dues for the year of $310 (according to the FFAW constitution on the union's official website). 

Some harvesters (crewmen in particular) off Newfoundland’s south and east coasts who have fished so far this year and owed back dues have had almost $300 deducted from their first cheque, a financial strain when families can least afford it. 

Meantime, it’s feared that harvesters on the northeast coast who owe back dues will also have huge deductions from their first cheques, which would be particularly devastating considering, for many, severe ice conditions have prevented them from fishing and their EI has run out.

"The FFAW knows quotas are slashed, the ice is in, and people have run out of EI. How are harvesters supposed to catch up?” said Cleary. “If you're down and out the bank will work with you, and the car dealership will work with you, but not the FFAW. The FFAW is about one thing and one thing only — the FFAW."

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