Province rebuffs processors

Terry Roberts
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Labour minister says price-setting panel will stay in place

The provincial government is stiff-arming the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP), saying it is committed to the three-member panel that sets prices for catches in the Newfoundland fishery.

Human Resources, Labour and Employment Minister Susan Sullivan said Thursday she supports the Standing Price-Setting Panel, which was established several years ago as a mechanism to set prices if producers and the fisheries union fail to reach agreement.

Human Resources, Labour and Employment Minister Susan Sullivan

The provincial government is stiff-arming the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP), saying it is committed to the three-member panel that sets prices for catches in the Newfoundland fishery.

Human Resources, Labour and Employment Minister Susan Sullivan said Thursday she supports the Standing Price-Setting Panel, which was established several years ago as a mechanism to set prices if producers and the fisheries union fail to reach agreement.

"If they don't feel comfortable going to the panel, they don't have to," Sullivan said.

Sullivan put forward the government's position a day after news broke that the ASP was severing all ties with the panel, accusing it of being biased toward the fisheries union and alleging it was not "competent" to the task it was given.

Sullivan does not seem to share that opinion. "We remain committed to the panel," she said.

The ASP wants the government to replace the panel with one independent arbitrator who will set prices based exclusively on what the market and currencies dictate, under a final offer selection formula.

The decision by the ASP to boycott any collective bargaining that involves the panel comes after many attempts to have its actions investigated, or have it dismantled altogether, ASP executive director Derek Butler has said.

In light of the government's position, the ASP is now renewing its call for a full industrial inquiry into price-setting in the fishing industry.

"Clearly the panel does not work, and the whole collective bargaining exercise is undermined by it. We have had shutdowns, we have had decisions based on nothing more than wharf talk and politics, we have had contradictions written in black and white in the panel's decisions, and government stands behind this? Something doesn't add up," Butler said in a news release issued Thursday.

And if an inquiry is not possible, Butler said the government may have to start compensating producers for their losses.

Butler said the panel set 2009 crab prices about 20 cents per pound higher than what market conditions and currency exchange rates dictated, and producers were bound by law to either pay the higher price, or not operate at all.

"We're forced to lose money," Butler said. "If the panel is going to make these decisions, and we bear the brunt of having to deal with that, and the government has imposed this panel upon us, then they should fill in the gap."

Butler acknowledged that's not a logical option, but said it reinforces the argument the panel is not working.

The ASP's decision to boycott the panel has touched off another major dispute in the fishing industry, which has been bedeviled by weak markets and undesirable currency rates.

Fish, Food and Allied Workers' (FFAW) union president Earle McCurdy was furious at the decision, calling it an attempt by the ASP to destroy collective bargaining and weaken the union.

McCurdy said processors want full control over pricing, and cannot accept the fact that the panel's decisions have not gone in their favour.

McCurdy called on the provincial government to ignore the ASP's demands for the removal of the panel, and said the union will not allow its members to go fishing until a collective agreement is signed, or the panel sets a price for landings that is binding on all sides.

In a news conference Wednesday, McCurdy also charged Butler was showing contempt for the dozens of fishermen who have lost their lives over the years by not returning calls or e-mails from the union.

Butler described that comment as untrue and shameful, and suggested McCurdy should apologize for politicizing the sacrifices of lost fishermen.

Meanwhile, Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman expressed concern about the latest dispute to hit the troubled industry, but doesn't believe it will derail a restructuring strategy that got underway last summer.

The province, the union and processors signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at rationalizing the fishery last July.

"I am still committed and convinced we can make a difference in this MOU process," he said.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Association of Seafood Producers, Allied Workers

Geographic location: Newfoundland

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Harvey
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    I see now why Butler of the ASP walked away from the price-setting panel. Look at what he said... the government may have to start compensating producers for their losses. Let's see in black and white the ASP losses.

  • Eli
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    McCurdy is a good one to talk. If ever there was a conflict of interest it's in the union, representing too many interests including his own.

  • bayman
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    one problem is the plants putting on a sad face and saying that the cupboard is bare and prices are low on the markets ... the exchange rate on the Canadian dollar is killing us .... next thing you hear is skippers getting 30,40.50 cents per pound under the table. A good start for the upcoming season is for the government to ban these practices and lay HEAVY fines on any plant that continues these practices. From now on let the price set BE THE PRICE !!!

  • Delton
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    I want to apply for the independent arbitrator position.
    What merchant do I send my application to?

    And where did producer come from?
    It used to be the merchants, then the plants, then the processors, and now the producers......makes me ill!

    $3/lb for crab, $1/lb for shrimp is a good starting point for the upcoming season.
    Newfoundland fisherman must stop struggling to achieve break even prices.

    Remember ten years ago? Crab being $3/lb?
    Guess what......the consumer is paying more now than ever.......none gets thrown away........

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    I think there has to be honesty in the fishery. The first step to the highway of honesty is to get rid of Earl McCurdy as he does not represent the fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrsdor. He is only there for a future pension and to line the pockets of those who support him.

    There should be a new coalition with the fishermen setting their prices and quotas.
    Fishermen fighhting and protecting the rights of fishermen with supervision from the gouvernment. get rid of the union as they are useless and there for personal gains. The union has longliners off the coast and selling their products to the merchants which is a conflict of interest.

    The licenses should be given out and controlled, not a bundle given to the union and same distributed to their friends. The merchants should pay more for the fishermen's catch to make it worthwhile.

  • greg
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    Butler wants the province to start compensating plant owners for their loss. Which set of financial records of a particular Comapny shall we use to determine the loss?

  • Harvey
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    I see now why Butler of the ASP walked away from the price-setting panel. Look at what he said... the government may have to start compensating producers for their losses. Let's see in black and white the ASP losses.

  • Eli
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    McCurdy is a good one to talk. If ever there was a conflict of interest it's in the union, representing too many interests including his own.

  • bayman
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    one problem is the plants putting on a sad face and saying that the cupboard is bare and prices are low on the markets ... the exchange rate on the Canadian dollar is killing us .... next thing you hear is skippers getting 30,40.50 cents per pound under the table. A good start for the upcoming season is for the government to ban these practices and lay HEAVY fines on any plant that continues these practices. From now on let the price set BE THE PRICE !!!

  • Delton
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    I want to apply for the independent arbitrator position.
    What merchant do I send my application to?

    And where did producer come from?
    It used to be the merchants, then the plants, then the processors, and now the producers......makes me ill!

    $3/lb for crab, $1/lb for shrimp is a good starting point for the upcoming season.
    Newfoundland fisherman must stop struggling to achieve break even prices.

    Remember ten years ago? Crab being $3/lb?
    Guess what......the consumer is paying more now than ever.......none gets thrown away........

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    I think there has to be honesty in the fishery. The first step to the highway of honesty is to get rid of Earl McCurdy as he does not represent the fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrsdor. He is only there for a future pension and to line the pockets of those who support him.

    There should be a new coalition with the fishermen setting their prices and quotas.
    Fishermen fighhting and protecting the rights of fishermen with supervision from the gouvernment. get rid of the union as they are useless and there for personal gains. The union has longliners off the coast and selling their products to the merchants which is a conflict of interest.

    The licenses should be given out and controlled, not a bundle given to the union and same distributed to their friends. The merchants should pay more for the fishermen's catch to make it worthwhile.

  • greg
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    Butler wants the province to start compensating plant owners for their loss. Which set of financial records of a particular Comapny shall we use to determine the loss?