© — Photo by Kate McCullough/Special to The Telegram
FFAW president Earle McCurdy speaks during a news conference held Friday in St. John's.
Fish, Food and Allied Workers union president Earle McCurdy made it clear at a news conference Friday that the fate of 40-million pounds of fish is not in the union's hands.
This comes after outgoing fisheries minister Darin King publicly blamed the union representing the workers at the fish plant in Fortune for stopping the Ocean Choice International groundfish proposal from going ahead.
McCurdy said the minister is trying to shift responsibility for the proposal from the government to the union.
"Clearly it's within his jurisdiction to make the decision," he said at a news conference. "Sometimes in government, you have to govern."
Decisions on the proposal, a plan that would allow OCI's fish plant in Fortune to export a greater amount - about 80 per cent - of unprocessed fish, are between the company and the provincial government, and the FFAW was asked to offer suggestions only.
"The fact is, it's not our decision. We got belatedly asked for input," McCurdy told reporters.
The FFAW sent King an alternate proposal Tuesday outlining the union's concerns.
Among other things, the union is suggesting that the extent of the yellowfish exemption be reduced and the use of foreign vessels, which would be required if the plan were to go ahead, be limited.
"Is that nixing something or is that bringing forward ideas?" McCurdy said.
McCurdy said King made it clear in a meeting Thursday the government does not support the use of foreign vessels, contrary to the government's backing of the plan.
The shot at McCurdy dovetailed with a cabinet shuffle Friday, in which King was shuffled out of the fisheries portfolio.
King said McCurdy wasn't negotiating in the best interests of some of the people he represents, and accused McCurdy of being disingenuous in the media about the issues under negotiation.
"This might be my last statement because we have a new minister of fisheries, but I'm going to tell you right now, unless there's a change in attitude and leadership at the FFAW, the fishery will not change in Newfoundland and Labrador," King told reporters.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale took a similar tone, saying the FFAW is negotiating based on principle, even though it's hurting everyone involved.
"The OCI file demonstrates in a very clear way the difficulty we have in this province in dealing with fisheries issues," she said. "The FFAW are not onside, and the FFAW are not onside they say, because of principle, but principle that's not directly associated with the people of the province doesn't serve any of us, and that is the nut that we can't seem to crack."