Fishermen and seafood processors went back to the negotiating table on the weekend, but couldn’t agree on the price of lobster.
George Joyce, executive director of the Seafood Processers of Newfoundland and Labrador (SPONL), said the two sides met Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday, but couldn’t come to an agreement. The association says its buyers can’t afford the price of lobster, which is tied to the market with a minimum of $3.25 per pound. The union has responded by saying it will form its own co-operative to buy and sell lobster.
“We provided a written proposal to the union committee Saturday evening, asking for a 20-cent discount on the formula in order for buyers to get through the rest of this year,” said Joyce Monday afternoon.
“The union has responded verbally, with about eight cents reduction, and we say, ‘No, we can’t live with that.’”
Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union, said the proces sors’ proposal of a 20-cent discount was “way off base,” which is why the union is proceeding with its plans to set up its own co-operative even as talks were continuing.
“We moved our first couple of truckloads out last week. Another truck is buying today on the west coast, expected to be on the ferry tonight,” he said.
“There’s another one that we’re expecting across from Nova Scotia over to be collecting tomorrow, so we’re up and running now.”
Joyce said the processors have asked the union to take their offer to its membership for a vote.
“With nobody buying lobster today, for example, there are about 500 workers out of work in the lobster industry, because buyers, that is the number of employees they employ when the lobster industry is in full swing.”
Joyce said the union wants to restructure the lobster industry and is using a price dispute to do it, but he said fishermen in smaller areas are being left behind.
“I know that there are a number of areas that have not been serviced by the FFAW in terms of collecting the lobsters. If you’re not close to a main area, a main community or a main town, there are many problems with regard to fishermen trying to sell their lobsters,” he said.
“I think SPONL should worry about SPONL and let us worry about FFAW members,” he said.
“If they were as concerned about FFAW members in the first instance, they wouldn’t have fallen down on the job of providing the market information they undertook to provide last year, and we wouldn’t be in a situation where we’ve got a lockout on our hands by buyers.”
McCurdy also said there’s no plans to take the processors’
20-cent proposal to the membership for a vote.
“When we want advice from George, we’ll go looking for it,” he said.