Fight or fold, FISH-NL issues final challenge to inshore harvesters

The following press release was issued by FISH-NL earlier today, followed by remarks delivered by President Ryan Cleary during a news conference at the union office in downtown St. John’s.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, April 8th, 2019

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The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) will close by the end of April, and abandon a second attempt at certification unless inshore harvesters step up to the plate and pay their dues.

“I’ll say it again, ‘FISH-NL can do this with you, but we can’t do it for you,’” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “The FISH-NL executive is not prepared to lead a second membership drive that’s guaranteed to fail, and it will fail without the support of harvesters.”

FISH-NL was on the brink of closure early last fall after the province’s Labour Relations Board dismissed its application for certification — almost two years after it was filed. Instead, FISH-NL challenged a minimum of 500 harvesters to step forward and pay membership dues of $288 a year.

While the goal was exceeded, only roughly 300 harvesters have actually followed through and paid dues. Most of the rest are either waiting until fishing starts, or weren’t aware they would still have to pay dues to their current union.

In order to force a vote for inshore harvesters to choose between FISH-NL and their current union, half of them must sign membership cards in a card-signing campaign that would likely run between Aug. 1st and Oct. 31st.

“Think of a membership drive the same as an election campaign. You can’t win a campaign unless it’s staffed and financed,” said Cleary. “This isn’t the first time FISH-NL has asked harvesters to step up to the plate, but it will be the last.”

FISH-NL estimates it would need a minimum of $150,000 (or the support of at least 500 more harvesters in paying dues) to follow through with a 2nd application for certification.

“We’re going public a final time because this struggle isn’t just about a fight between two unions,” Cleary added. “It’s about the future of the fishery, and all that we hold dear. Fight or fold, we want to know that we gave it our all.”

Peter Leonard, Vice-President of FISH-NL and an inshore harvester from Southern Harbour, said it’s time for the labour dispute to come to a head.

“This has been going on now for two and a half years and harvesters are going to have to pay their way for the change they asked for,” he said. “You can’t expect the same fishermen to pay the way of their neighbours and fellow harvesters. We all have to step up together. Pay up or the fight is over. No money, no FISH-NL.”

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PRESIDENT RYAN CLEARY'S STATEMENT TO THE MEDIA.

Good morning, thank you for coming. 

My name is Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL; 

with me is Peter Leonard, Vice-President of FISH-NL;

Jason Sullivan, Secretary-Treasurer; 

Keith Boland, Captain of the Under 40 Fleet;

and Melanie Marsh, who’s part of a fishing enterprise from Hickman’s Harbour and one of our most devoted volunteers.

Boyd Lavers, Captain of the Over 40 fleet, is in Port Saunders on the Great Northern Peninsula and couldn’t make it here today with the fisheries about to open.

This has been a busy time for FISH-NL in representing our members.

We believe we’ve helped make headway on a number of fronts. 

In the Gulf, where our inshore harvesters were told the 2019 northern shrimp quota would be cut by 15 per cent, that cut was reversed — representing the first time in most peoples’ memories that a management plan was changed AFTER it was handed down.

The fishermen of the Great Northern Peninsula said their catch rates were up 25 to 30 per cent last year, and DFO didn’t even bother to look at their logbooks.

FISH-NL made their case, and we believe we had a hand in reversing the cut.

FISH-NL also fought for the fishermen of 3K against proposed cuts to the snow crab quota.

Those cuts didn’t go ahead either, keeping millions of dollars in the pockets of harvesters. 

FISH-NL believes we had a hand in that, too.

FISH-NL also had a hand in this year’s record price for snow crab at $5.38 a pound. 

Jason Sullivan said publicly three week ago — when he returned from the Boston Seafood Show — that it would be robbery to set this year’s price at any less than $5.40 a pound. 

The final price was set last week, and Jason was out by two cents.

I’m sure the FFAW appreciated FISH-NL’s input.

The Standing Fish Price Setting Panel may have also been motivated to side with the harvesters on the price of crab after FISH-NL said the panel should be scrapped, with harvesters given back their right to strike.

FISH-NL cannot say we were directly responsible for every bit of good news in the fishery.

Of course not.

What we can say is that FISH-NL has held the FFAW and government’s feet to the fire. 

We’ve held the union and government to account like they haven’t been held to account — ever.

We’ve brought information forward that had never seen the light of day. 

It took a new union for harvesters to find out what’s going on with their existing union.

The fishery is desperate for challenge in terms of federal management (federal MIS-management) with most commercial stocks are at or near critical levels,

The fishery is desperate for competition in terms of union representation. 

One union cannot represent all workers in all sectors of an industry. 

But that’s what happens in the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery — which is madness. 

FISH-NL has brought all the conflicts of interest front and centre.

We’ve also made the point that a union cannot hold Ottawa or the oil industry to account on one hand, when the other hand is busy stuffing its pockets with government grants, and fish quotas, and membership fees, and cash from all quarters.

This battle is not just a fight between two unions — it’s bigger than that.

We see this as a fight over the future of the fishery itself, our rural communities, our cultural industry, and all that we hold dear.

We see this as a fight for survival.

But, and here’s the but, and I’ve said this to inshore harvesters before: We can do this WITH you, but we can’t do it FOR you.

In that light, FISH-NL is announcing that we will close by the end of April — and abandon our second attempt at certification — unless inshore harvesters step up to the plate and pay their dues.

I’ll say it again, and I’m saying this directly to inshore harvesters, their families, and the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador: FISH-NL can do this with you, but we can’t do it for you.

The FISH-NL executive is not prepared to lead a second membership drive that’s guaranteed to fail, and it WILL fail without the support of harvesters.

Many of you will recall that FISH-NL was on the brink of closure last September after the Labour Relations Board dismissed our application for certification — almost two years after it was filed.

We absolutely disagreed with the Board’s decision — we still call it the big “labour lie” — but we didn’t give up.

Instead, we turned the challenge back to harvesters.

We said that we needed a minimum of 500 fishermen/and women to step forward and pay membership dues of $288 a year.

We surpassed the goal — around 540 signed on.

But only just over 300 harvesters have actually followed through and paid dues.

Most of the rest are either waiting until fishing starts, or weren’t aware they would still have to pay dues to their current union.

Money has always been an issue for FISH-NL.

I want to deliver a message today to inshore harvesters.

If we can’t put together a minimum of $150,000 by the end of the month, then we shouldn’t bother — then we won’t bother — to put together a second card-signing drive, and application for certification.

Because we will loose — again — and if i can speak for the executive for one moment, we’re only in this to win it, not to play opposition.

We’re not around just to keep the FFAW and Ottawa in check — that’s not on.

There’s too much at stake — and every harvester knows what I’m talking about — the industry is a mess and the FFAW is out for itself. 

Think of a membership drive the same as an election campaign.

To win, a campaign must be well staffed and well financed.

This isn’t the first time FISH-NL has asked harvesters to step up to the plate and give — but it will be the last.

We estimate we would need a minimum of $150,000 to follow through with a 2nd application for certification and three-month card-signing drive.

$150,000 would work out to the support of 500 more harvesters — on top of the 300 we already have who are paying dues.

We’re going public a final time — and I emphasis this point again — because this struggle isn’t just about a fight between two unions. 

It’s not about me or Jason Sullivan or Peter Leonard or Boyd Lavers or Richard Gillett or Keith Boland or Melanie Marsh.

It’s not about a job. It’s not about power.

It’s about the future of the fishery, and all that we hold dear.

It’s about an industry that must stand on its own feet, an industry that we can be proud of, and an industry that our sons and daughters can one day dream of joining. 

Fight or fold, we also want to know at the end of the day that we gave this our all — and left nothing in the ring.

Thank you.

To pay dues to FISH-NL please call Lisa Rice at the office — 237-6300 (between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.), or visit our website at fish-nl.ca/payduesmonthly

You can also send an e-mail money transfer to info@fish-nl.ca and make the password dues2019. For cheques or money orders our mailing address is P.O. Box 1064, St. John's, NL A1C5M5.


Onward and upward.