Injunction stands in Bay Roberts protest

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Barb Sweet
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From left, Ocean Choice International lawyer Stephen Penney, Harbour International Ltd. lawyer Harold Smith and Greg Kirby, representing the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, await a Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador hearing Tuesday.— Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

An injunction preventing a union blockade of a Ocean Choice International (OCI) trawler on the dock in Bay Roberts stands, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador ruled Tuesday. Harold Smith, lawyer for Harbour International Ltd. which owns the property, said the company will ask the RCMP to enforce the injunction, granted last fall in another matter. OCI is a customer of Harbour International.Injunction stands in Bay Roberts protest

But Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union (FFAW) said late Tuesday afternoon the protesters moved outside the gates of the property and will obey the court order.

We certainly respect the court's decision in that regard, McCurdy told The Telegram. We are in a labour dispute and we have a right to maintain a picket line and we are and will continue to do so. But it will be done in a manner that's consistent with the court order.

This week, tension between the fisheries union and OCI reached a standoff on the dock in Bay Roberts. Thirty unionized crew members most of them from the Burin Peninsula of the fishing trawler Newfoundland Lynx initiated a blockade of the vessel Sunday after the company locked out the workers and attempted to bring in a replacement crew.

As the case unfolded in court Tuesday, picketers continued their action on the Bay Roberts property where the Newfoundland Lynx was docked until the court ruling came down. The Harbour International property was subject of an injunction last fall granted to the dock operator against the FFAW/Canadian Autoworkers (CAW).

Chief Justice David Orsborn ruled Tuesday that injunction needn't be amended to allow the crew to protest the Lynx on the dock. He said the union has shown no evidence its members are significantly hampered from carrying out a peaceful picketing operation if moved to the outskirts of the property.

I appreciate that one is dealing with a situation that out in the real world engenders a lot of emotion and hard feelings, Orsborn said, acknowledging the stress on both sides of the labour dispute.

He said when parties can't resolve their dispute in a civil manner on site, the court steps in to offer an independent assessment.

Greg Kirby, the lawyer for FFAW, told the court the picketers could provide better information to the replacement workers if they were adjacent the Newfoundland Lynx. But Orsborn said being outside the gates didn't amount to a significant hinderance of their peaceful picketing rights.

Smith told the court Harbour International is a third party in the dispute and the actions of the protesters were preventing company employees from bringing their vehicles on their own property, a direct violation of last fall's injunction.

The suggestion it is not impacting us is untrue, Smith told the court, noting 30-40 people were camped out on his client's property.

OCI lawyer Stephen Penney said the dockside action wasn't a peaceful picket, but consisted of trespassing and intimidation that the RCMP attempted to mediate.

The Lynx, which is owned by OCI, is an offshore shrimp trawler that offloads its catch in Bay Roberts and has about 52 unionized employees on two crews.

The workers, who go to sea for up to 60 days each time, have been without a contract for about six years. On Friday, the crew voted unanimously to take strike action.

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Organizations: OCI, Harbour International, RCMP FFAW Supreme Court Allied Workers union The Telegram FFAW/Canadian Autoworkers

Geographic location: Bay Roberts, Newfoundland and Labrador

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  • WHO CARES WHY THEY ARE STRIKING
    February 09, 2012 - 07:46

    OCI is a legal right to staff its property with whomever it wants. Regardless of why these FORMER workers are striking, these workers are breaking the law and should be arrested. The fact that there has been no contract for SIX years is a clear indication that they wage demands too high for the skill required for the job, nor the interests of the company. As such, the ship as sailed with replacement workers. Congrate OCI!!!

  • Eli
    February 08, 2012 - 20:54

    So why are they striking at this time? Is it in sympathy with the shutdown in Marystown (the crew is from the Burin Peninsula), or frustrated with the lack of a contract six years overdue? If it's the latter what's holding it up?