FISH-NL says FFAW no longer entitled to represent inshore harvesters; urges Labour Board to order immediate vote


The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) says the province’s Labour Relations Board should proceed immediately to a vote of inshore harvesters to decide which union would best represent them.


While FISH-NL’s application for certification remains before the Board, other factors necessitate a vote as soon as possible: the Supreme Court of NL, Court of Appeal, recently upheld an earlier court decision that the FFAW deceived its members; and the FFAW’s failure to reveal how much money oil companies pump into the union.

“The FFAW is beyond salvation,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “The FFAW no longer deserves the right to represent inshore harvesters, who have lost all faith and respect for their union. The only recourse is to allow them to vote on their future.”

On June 16th, the Court of Appeal dismissed the FFAW’s appeal of a 2016 Supreme Court of NL decision that found the union had deceived its membership. The FFAW negotiated a compensation package with Nalcor for a power line across the Strait of Belle Isle to bring Muskrat power to the island. 

The power line impacted scallop harvesters in that they could no longer fish in the area, but it was only after the compensation deal was done that the FFAW asked harvesters for permission to negotiate on their behalf. The FFAW distributed consent forms, when the union had already done a deal.

Then there was the deal itself. The FFAW negotiated a compensation package to be paid out over 30 years, but only to active harvesters who could prove losses. Most scallop harvesters disagreed with that deal, wanting all active and inactive scallop harvesters compensated in a lump sum payment. 

The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the harvesters. “FFAW was clearly acting outside its usual role and did not appreciate the full implications of its behaviour,” read the appeal court ruling. 

“The appeal court ruling proves what harvesters have been saying for years,” says Cleary. “The FFAW holds meetings — not to consult its membership — but to tell them what’s already been decided.”

FISH-NL has also accused the FFAW of being “bought and paid for” regarding its silence relating to record seismic surveying in the offshore this year, and general silence overall relating to oil and gas development in the NL offshore. 

The FFAW recently called on the FFAW to reveal details of its financial arrangements with the offshore oil industry to address conflict of interest charges.

In 2006, the FFAW and local offshore oil representatives formed One Ocean, a “liaison" organization that’s billed as representing the “mutual interests” of both industries. 

Oil companies contribute to One Ocean, but the FFAW won’t reveal the amount or what the funds are used for.

It was also revealed that Nelson Bussey, an executive member of the FFAW, and industry executive on One Ocean, won a recent marine escort contract involving the tow out of the Hebron platform. 

It’s believed Bussey was paid upwards of $10,000 a day, with the FFAW taking a cut of more than 40 per cent off the top.

To date, the FFAW has refused to reveal details of its financial relations with the oil companies.