Inshore harvesters offered second chance to break free of FFAW-Unifor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Monday, Aug. 12th, 2019 

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is launching today its second membership drive for inshore harvesters to finally break free of the FFAW/Unifor.

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“When inshore harvesters unite under the FISH-NL banner they’ll finally get past decades of complaining about the undemocratic and ineffective FFAW, and start turning the fishery around so it works for all of them,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. 

“FISH-NL’s first battle is to free harvesters from the FFAW stranglehold, and after almost three long years we’re almost there,” Cleary added. “The second fight will be to end mismanagement of our fisheries, and secure harvesters and the rural communities where they live with a prosperous future as the primary beneficiary of adjacent stocks.”

The membership drive starts today, and will conclude on Nov. 8th when FISH-NL will submit the membership cards as part of an application for certification to the province’s Labour Relations Board.

The membership drive is required by provincial labour legislation to trigger a secret-ballot vote for inshore harvesters to choose their union representation. To trigger a vote, at least 40 per cent of harvesters must sign FISH-NL membership cards. 

“Harvesters will only truly prosper as part of a union negotiating in their interests alone, with no conflicts of interest with governments, oil companies, or its own members, and the ability to vote out the executive if they’re not cutting it,” says Peter Leonard, Vice-President of FISH-NL and a fisherman from Southern Harbour.

The membership drive will be broken into at least two waves. The first wave began this past Friday, Aug. 9th, when FISH-NL mailed out thousands of membership cards to more than 100 volunteer card captains around the province who will distribute and collect the cards. 

Individual harvesters can also have membership cards sent directly to them in the mail. Any person who wants to obtain a membership card or volunteer is encouraged to contact the FISH-NL office.

To be eligible to sign a FISH-NL card, a person must have a fish sale in their name during 2018 or 2019, with union dues collected and remitted by a fish processor/buyer.

The second wave of the membership drive will begin on Monday, Aug. 26th, when FISH-NL’s provincial tour is scheduled to begin. Details of the tour will be released prior to the Aug. 26th start date. 

All membership cards submitted to FISH-NL will be strictly confidential. The names will NOT be made public, and at no point will the FFAW-Unifor have access to the cards or information.

“This critical vote will determine the fate of inshore harvesters, and the industry itself for decades to come,” said Jason Sullivan, Secretary-Treasurer of FISH-NL and a Bay Bulls-based fisherman. 

“Our rural economy deserves the best chance to grow and prosper. We urge all inshore harvesters to take the time to discuss and think about the future of their enterprises, families, and communities, and vote for the freedom to chart their own destiny.”

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BACKGROUND AND BULLET NOTES

• In September, 2018 — 21 months after the FISH-NL’s first application was submitted — the province’s Labour Relations Board dismissed it. 

• The Board ruled that the 2,372 membership cards submitted with FISH-NL’s first application did not represent at least 40 per cent of the overall number of harvesters, the amount required to trigger a vote.

• The FFAW has claimed there are roughly 10,000 harvesters in its bargaining unit. According to the FFAW-run Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board, there were 9,080 apprentice, Level 1, and Level II harvesters registered in the province in 2018. However, a percentage of those certified harvesters work offshore on factory-freezer trawlers. 

• The FFAW/Unifor represents most unionized workers in the commercial fishery — including inshore harvesters, plant workers, and workers on offshore factory-freezer trawlers  — which has been seen as a conflict of interest from Day 1. 

• The FFAW also represents workers in 20 other bargaining units, from hotel and oil tanker workers to metal fabricators and brewery workers. The FFAW represents some workers — including those in the aquaculture industry — whose interests are in direct conflict with those of inshore harvesters. 

• While the FFAW is tasked with holding Fisheries and Oceans Canada to account for fisheries management, the union receives millions of dollars a year in federal contracts. 

• The FFAW refuses to reveal the amount of funding it receives directly and indirectly from oil companies whose exploration and drilling activities off Newfoundland and Labrador are negatively impacting commercial fisheries. 

• FISH-NL is managed by a five-member executive serving two-year terms and elected directly by inshore harvesters. The executive includes: Ryan Cleary (President), Jason Sullivan (Secretary-Treasurer), Peter Leonard (Vice-President), Keith Boland (Captain Under 40), and Boyd Lavers (Captain Over 40).