Lengthy talks sign of hope

Staff ~ The Telegram
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Both sides quiet as OCI, union try to hammer out agreement, avoid strike

Attempts to avert a strike at six Ocean Choice International seafood processing plants in the province have intensified, with the company and union holding extensive talks Thursday and Friday.

The two sides met for roughly five hours Thursday and were expected to meet for most of the afternoon and into the evening Friday.

Attempts to avert a strike at six Ocean Choice International seafood processing plants in the province have intensified, with the company and union holding extensive talks Thursday and Friday.

The two sides met for roughly five hours Thursday and were expected to meet for most of the afternoon and into the evening Friday.

A spokesperson for OCI said both sides had agreed to a media blackout.

Ben Baker of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers' Union (FFAW) spoke briefly Friday, saying only that he couldn't comment on the progress of talks.

But the fact both sides are even talking is a positive sign, considering the frosty exchanges have taken place in recent weeks.

About 1,500 workers at the plants have been without a collective agreement since Dec. 31. They recently voted 93 per cent in favour of strike action.

The company indicated a willingness to "give a bit" earlier this week, while union officials have repeatedly complained about what it describes as an attempt by the company to further strip workers' rights and benefits.

Heading into the most recent talks, outstanding issues included wages, overtime, holidays and vacation pay.

The company, for example, wants to pay time-and-a-half to employees who work Sundays. It currently pays double-time.

Unionized employees currently earn an average of $13 per hour. The company has offered to increase the base hourly rate to $13.25 in Year 1 and $13.45 in Year 2.

Ocean Choice purchased the former Fishery Products International plants several years ago.

telegram@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Allied Workers, Fishery Products International

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