© Doug Barnes, Grand Falls-Windsor
Tasty catch. A fine catch of lobsters is displayed this past summer in the central Newfoundland area.
A deal has been reached on lobster prices. The Seafood Processors Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SPONL) and the Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (FFAW) agreed to a minimum price of $3.65 a pound.
That price can be reviewed on a weekly basis by an independent third party — set to be chosen today.
“We got a transparent process for the first time,” said George Joyce, executive director of SPONL.
Union president Earle McCurdy also welcomed the deal.
“It puts a real pressure on both parties to negotiate realistically and in good faith,” he said.
Prior to the deal, harvesters and buyers were deadlocked over the price of lobster. Fishermen had called on the province to let them sell their lobster in the Maritimes and the buyers refused to pay the price established by the province’s price-setting panel.
The new deal was reached Thursday afternoon after two days of negotiations.
It’s the first collective bargaining agreement in the province’s lobster fishery. Each week, either party can serve notice it wants a price review.
Export market receipts will be provided to the third party, likely to be a chartered accountant, for analysis. But the database protects the confidentiality of individual buyers’ market information.
Prices paid in other provinces will be obtained for “information purposes,” according to the agreement.
The deal is retroactive to May 8.
“It puts a real pressure on both parties to negotiate realistically and in good faith.” Earle McCurdy
Joyce said if the processors and union can’t agree on a weekly basis, the price reverts to the provincial formula set by the Standing Fish Price-Setting Panel April 18.
The formula established a price of $4.26 per pound for the week April 17-23, and $4.23 for the week from April 24-30.
While fishermen sought to sell lobster in Nova Scotia during the dispute, Joyce noted buyers there can pay more because their industry is several times larger and they are closer to the markets.
Joyce said he expects the lobster industry to kick into high gear now that a deal has been reached in this province.
“The next couple of days, a huge amount of lobster will be put in the marketplace,” Joyce said.
The deal came at the last possible moment, with Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman threatening to open the lobster market up to outside buyers if a deal wasn’t reached by the end of the day.
The lobster issue has been debated in the House of Assembly all week, and fisheries critic Marshall Dean took some of the credit for spurring negotiations to a conclusion.
“It’s kept it front and centre and it’s brought the minister to bear down on the situation and to, you know, keep attention to it,” he said.