FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Aug. 1st, 2017
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is calling on the province’s Labour Relations Board to conduct an immediate vote of inshore harvesters to decide which union they want to represent them.
“It’s been seven months since FISH-NL presented our application for certification to the board with no end in sight,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “The delay is unreasonable given that time is of the essence.”
On Dec. 30th, 2016, FISH-NL presented an application to the province’s Labour Relations Board requesting the new union be certified as the bargaining agent for inshore fish harvesters, currently represented by the FFAW-Unifor.
On March 10th, the Board issued a sweeping order that included: the FFAW-Unifor hand over its list of inshore harvesters who were members between January, 2015 and Dec. 30th, 2016; for the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) to supply its list of inshore harvesters on whose behalf members companies remitted dues to the FFAW over the same time frame; and for FISH to identify “who it believes the members of the proposed bargaining unit are.”
While FISH-NL and the FFAW-Unifor supplied information to the Labour Relations Board in response to the order, Derek Butler President of ASP, refused. According to the Labour Board’s investigator, Butler told the board in March he had “no authority” to order member companies to provide the information requested.
Cleary said the list from the ASP, which represents more than 65 fish processing plants in the province, is the only way to independently verify the identity of inshore harvesters.
“The Labour Relations Board has the ability to retain counsel and make an application to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador to enforce the order,” said Cleary. “That should have been done long ago.”
The Labour Relations Board must determine whether FISH-NL has the support of at least 40 per cent of inshore harvesters, which would trigger a secret vote (although the board could order a vote regardless).
That vote by inshore harvesters would ultimately decide which union will represent them.
Cleary said the delay is unacceptable for the thousands of inshore harvesters who supported FISH-NL, because they’ve since become invisible to the FFAW, which won’t take their calls.
While FISH-NL has been providing union representation to harvesters who have issues, for example, with DFO, the financial strain on the new union is enormous at a time when harvesters have faced deep quota cuts, and, for many, the start of their season was delayed by severe ice conditions.
As well, hundreds of inshore harvesters tried to stop having FFAW dues deducted from their fish sales — with the money redirected to FISH-NL — but the FFAW threatened legal action against processing companies that did not remit dues.
Support aside, FISH-NL says other factors necessitate a vote as soon as possible: the Supreme Court of NL, Court of Appeal, recently upheld an earlier court decision that the FFAW deceived its members, and the FFAW’s failure to reveal how much money oil companies pump into the union.