FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Aug. 11th, 2017
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) says the FFAW-Unifor owes an apology to the family of a young fisherman who died tragically earlier this month for telling them they didn’t qualify for $30,000 in death benefits when they, in fact, qualify for at least half.
Further, the question must be raised whether other families may have been denied death benefits based on misinformation from the union.
“This sounds like terrible administration on the FFAW-Unifor’s end,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “For the union to tell a grieving family they don’t qualify for death benefits, and then to tell them a few days later, ‘Oh, there’s a mistake, you do,’ is just plain inexcusable. Inshore harvesters deserve better.”
Calvin (Bud) Tobin, a 25-year-old fisherman from Southern Harbour, died Aug. 2nd in a car accident near Clarenville. Soon after, the family contacted the FFAW-Unifor about the union-administered $30,000 insurance policy, only to be told they didn’t qualify.
Tobin owed $185 in outstanding union dues from 2016, and hadn’t paid them by the July 31st deadline. Dues are automatically deducted from a harvester’s pay when they sell their catch to a plant, but Tobin worked on a different boat this year that sold to a different plant, which wasn’t aware Tobin owned back dues.
FFAW President Keith Sullivan told the media Thursday it’s been “misrepresented” that the FFAW decided that Tobin wasn’t eligible, directing blame toward the policy holder, Sun Life Financial.
But union representatives met with Tobin’s family on Friday morning in Southern Harbour, and told them they are entitled to at least $15,000 in life insurance offered by Sun Life, which has a 30-day grace period on insurance premiums being paid in full.
The other $15,000 in death benefits is offered through another carrier, Industrial Alliance Pacific, but the Tobin family was told they apparently aren’t eligible for that money, although the union is still looking into it.
As well, union officials told the family they may be entitled to up to $5,000 in insurance to cover the funeral cost, also offered through Industrial Alliance.
“If the FFAW had of filed a life insurance claim on behalf of Tobin’s family they would have known about the 30-day grace period,” said Cleary. “They obviously didn’t file a claim, and gave the grieving family incorrect information.”
“The question must also be asked whether other families may have been denied benefits as a result of misinformation from the FFAW-Unifor?”