FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 19th, 2017
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is calling on Keith Sullivan, president of the FFAW-Unifor, to publicly apologize to his members after an appeal court ruled in favour of scallop harvesters who were deceived by the union.
Further, FISH-NL is calling for the resignation of Dave Decker, the union’s secretary-treasurer, who was in charge of the funding, as well as the firing of Jason Spingle, the FFAW staff representative who helped orchestrate the deal.
“It’s practically unheard of for a union to be convicted in court of misrepresenting its membership,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “Inshore harvesters have been saying for years that the FFAW no longer speaks for them — that the union is failing its membership — and this latest court decision proves that.”
“This decision also compels the Labour Relations Board to carry out a vote of inshore harvesters to decide which union they want to represent them — because the FFAW is clearly not going the job.”
On Friday, June 16th, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, Court of Appeal, upheld a March 16th, 2016 decision that ruled in favour of scallop harvesters who took on their own union over a compensation fund for lost fishing grounds on the Strait of Belle Isle.
Nalcor agreed in 2014 to pay out $2.6 million to keep harvesters away from an undersea cable that was needed to bring Muskat Falls power to the island.
But rank-and-file harvesters weren’t informed of the deal by the union executive until after it was done. In fact, it was after the contract had been signed that harvesters were asked to sign consent forms authorizing the FFAW to negotiate with Nalco on their behalf.
Then the FFAW-Unifor tried to ram the union-negotiated deal down the throats of the harvesters.
The FFAW-Unifor negotiated a deal whereby only active scallop harvesters who could demonstrate actual losses would be compensated, with money paid out over 30 years. The union also negotiated itself an administrative fee of $388,000 — 15 per cent of the total capital amount — over the life of the contract.
Meantime, the harvesters argued the money should be shared out through lump sum payments among all harvesters who held a scallop licence — active or inactive.
The Court of appeal stood by the original Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador decision: that the FFAW breached a “fiduciary” responsibility to the harvesters.
At the same time, the appeal court ruled that the FFAW is only entitled to half the $388,000 administration fee.