FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, May 1st, 2019
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) will proceed with a second application for certification — including a province-wide membership drive to begin Aug. 1st — to break inshore harvesters away from their current union.
“We’re full steam ahead — shoulders to the wheel,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “Inshore harvesters have told us they want change, and we’ll continue to do everything in our power to deliver on that change.”
FISH-NL set a deadline of April’s end to raise $150,000 from harvesters in the form of dues, funds required to follow through with a second application for certification, and three-month card-signing drive. FISH-NL did not reach the funding goal.
“We’re not even close — yet,” said Cleary, “but the flow of dues has been steady as fisheries resume and catches are landed. What we’re most encouraged by, and what drives us is constant internal polling that puts support for FISH-NL at up to 66 per cent.”
“FISH-NL also isn’t prepared to abandon the thousands of harvesters who’ve put their faith in us. Many of them say they might as well sell out if FISH-NL isn’t around, and we’re not prepared to leave them high and dry.”
Peter Leonard, Vice-President of FISH-NL and an inshore harvester from Southern Harbour, quoted well-known Twillingate fisherman Richard Gillett in summing up his thoughts on the current union representation.
“I’d rather fight on my feet than live on my knees,” said Leonard. “We’ll keep going until we can go no more.”
FISH-NL first application for certification was dismissed by the province’s Labour Relations Board in late September 2018 — almost two years after it was filed. The Board ruled FISH-NL did not have the support of at least 40 per cent of harvesters required to trigger a vote for them to decide which union they want to represent them.
The Board defined an inshore harvester as anyone with a fish sale in their name, and dues automatically remitted to the FFAW-Unifor.
“It’s been almost three years since I was approached by harvesters about forming a breakaway union, and while the challenge has been the greatest of my career, we now know the rules of the game and can see the goal posts,” said Cleary. “We’ll get there yet.”
By law, the earliest FISH-NL can submit an application for certification is Nov. 1st, with the card-signing drive to tentatively run from Aug. 1st-Oct. 31st.