Good day NL, all ships at sea, and inhabitants of La La Labour Land — in particular, its leading citizens, the FFAW executive.
In La La Labour Land a union is found guilty in the highest court in the land of “failing” its members, and continues on its merry way. In La La Labour Land a union slowly mutates into industry manager and the membership is expected to follow like sheep over the coming cliff. In La La Labour Land union members file for divorce, and the executive attempts to block them at the door with a technicality in the marriage papers.
The fate of FISH-NL and the inshore harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador is currently in the hands of a 3-person panel from the province’s Labour Relations Board.
The panel includes chair Sheilagh Murphy, a well-respected St. John’s lawyer (former President of the Canadian Bar Association, NL branch); Aubrey Drover, employer representative, a contractor and former chair of the NL Construction Association; and Bill Parsons, employee representative, who spent his entire career in the labour movement, including organizing director of the FFAW, and past president of the NL Federation of Labour.
This past Thursday, the panel held a hearing in St. John’s where FFAW lawyers argued that FISH-NL isn’t a legal organization because of technicalities at its founding convention. The Panel is expected to rule on FISH-NL’s fate in the coming days.
What’s crystal clear is that the more than 100 harvesters who attended FISH-NL Oct. 27th convention — and the almost 2,500 more who later signed membership cards — knew exactly what they were doing, breaking away from the salt-water mafia and forming their own union.
Lawyers for the FFAW include Tom Johnson and Kyle Reese from O’Dea Earle, a St. John’s law firm that has handled the union’s business for years. Johnson is also handling the FFAW’s appeal of a Supreme Court of NL ruling last winter. The court ruled in favour of scallop harvesters who took their own union to court over a $2.6 million compensation fund for lost fishing grounds on the Strait of Belle Isle. Judge Carl Thompson concluded that the FFAW failed in its responsibilities to the fishermen. David Goodland, who represented the fishermen who challenged the union and won, is the lawyer for FISH-NL.
The question has been asked what will fish harvesters do if FISH-NL’s knees are cut out from under us? Some harvesters have said they will drive to St. John’s and tear the FFAW apart brick by brick. The frustration/desperation of harvesters must not be underestimated. La La Labour Land could go up.