More turmoil for fishery

Terry Roberts
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Producers withdraw from pricing dispute mechanism; FFAW calls it attempt at union busting

Many months of collaboration on an industry restructuring strategy is in danger of falling apart after it was learned Wednesday that the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) is withdrawing from a process that settles price disputes in the fishery.

The rhetoric reached new heights as the fisheries union accused producers of trying to bust the union and get rid of collective bargaining, while producers accused the union of unnecessarily escalating a simple issue.

No agreement on price, no fishery. That was the basic message sent to fish processors Wednesday at a news conference called by the Fish, Food and Allied Workers' union. Seen seated above are union executive members, (from left) George Feltham, president E

Many months of collaboration on an industry restructuring strategy is in danger of falling apart after it was learned Wednesday that the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) is withdrawing from a process that settles price disputes in the fishery.

The rhetoric reached new heights as the fisheries union accused producers of trying to bust the union and get rid of collective bargaining, while producers accused the union of unnecessarily escalating a simple issue.

And the provincial government seems to once again be caught in the middle.

The ASP wrote Human Resources, Labour and Employment Minister Susan Sullivan Monday, informing her it would not take part in any collective bargaining that involves the Standing Price-Setting Panel, a three-member panel established several years ago by the provincial government under the Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act.

The panel sets prices if the union and producers are unable to reach agreement.

The ASP wants the government to replace the panel with one independent arbitrator that will set prices based exclusively on what the market and currencies dictate, under a final offer selection formula.

The ASP has long complained about the panel, alleging it has exhibited bias in past decisions in favour of the union.

"We don't think they're competent to the task," ASP executive director Derek Butler told The Telegram.

The union described the decision as an attempt to turn back the clock to a time when producers controlled the industry.

"I don't think the government should capitulate one iota to these pressure tactics," Fish, Food and Allied Workers' union president Earle McCurdy stated during a news conference Wednesday.

McCurdy was flanked by the union's inshore council.

The president blasted the association for pulling out of the process at a time when negotiations are about to get underway for raw material prices in fisheries such as shrimp and crab.

He said it was the equivalent of holding a gun to the head of the provincial government, and an attempt to weaken the fisheries union.

"What we expect the government to do with respect to this letter is absolutely nothing, and everything will be fine," McCurdy said.

If producers are not willing to come to the table, McCurdy said the panel still has the authority to set prices.

"If they're not there, we've notified the panel that we fully expect them to discharge their responsibilities under the act, and we've told the government likewise," McCurdy said.

Sullivan and Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman did not respond to interview requests.

It's another serious blow to the fishery, which has already been hobbled by weak markets and low raw material prices.

It further jeopardizes the chance of a timely start to the harvest, with McCurdy insisting harvesters will not untie their boats until there is a collective agreement in place, or there is a raw material price set by the panel that is binding on all sides.

McCurdy said it also casts a cloud of uncertainty over a restructuring in the fishery, which has been ongoing since the union, processors and the provincial government signed a memorandum of understanding last summer.

"You've got to wonder at the sincerity of a group that spent all summer, fall and winter in meetings that were supposedly being done co-operatively to pave the way for the fishery of the future, when behind closed doors they were planning this kind of an approach," McCurdy said.

McCurdy said a hearing on prices in the crab industry is scheduled for March 9, and the union will be present.

"It's up to the processors whether they will smarten up and sit down to bargain," he said.

Producers voted unanimously Feb. 17 to withdraw from the process, charging that it denies ASP members the right to meaningful collective bargaining.

The ASP has taken the decisions of the panel to court in the past, and has repeatedly called upon the provincial government to replace the panel with a professional single arbitrator, similar to a mechanism that existed prior to 2003.

Butler took direct aim at the three panellists - Joe O'Neil, Max Short and Bill Wells - in his remarks Wednesday, saying they were more interested in setting prices based on what harvesters say they need in order to fish, instead of what the market can afford.

"We think they reveal bias. We think they have made bad decisions. We think they violated the legislative provisions," Butler said, adding, "We don't trust the panel."

And Butler suggested the union struck a blow to collective bargaining when it passed a resolution last fall, setting a minimum price - 60 cents for shrimp and $1.50 for crab - by which they would sell their product.

McCurdy said there's nothing wrong with taking a position prior to negotiations.

"If they don't find that position acceptable, what you do is go to the bargaining table and you try and work it out," he said.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Association of Seafood Producers, Human Resources, The Telegram Allied Workers

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Comments

Recent comments

  • BILL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Here we go again. I guess Mccurdy wants their name in the news so they can keep their big company cars and exppense accounts. Well if the fisherman wnts to keep paying their UNION dues to them well they are more stupid than I thought they were

  • jason
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    as a fisherman who had to go to alberta again this fall and winter when is fisherman going to stop ilegal fishing.this ilegal fishing is not going on with other countries, but here with our own fisherman.if the crab price come down at under 1.50/lb let us leave it in the water.alot of fisherman out there dont care what the price is because they will bring in 1000s of pounds over there quota anyway to make up the diffferance!!!you know in a way it serves us right,because iam at fault i never told on them and your at fault for destroying alot of honest peoples livelyhoods.i just hope i dont see you up here looking for a job ill make sure you will never get one with my company

  • Mario
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    The fishery is dead, sell your boats and find a new job.

  • Robert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Now please people, before you start hurling your stupid poor fishermen comments, actually read the story hey? The Processors have said they won't sit down and negotiate fish prices because they don't like the fish price-setting panel - which acts like an arbitrator when harvesters and processors can't agree on a price. This is not fishermen moaning or bawling - this is plant owners not even willing to come to the negotiating table.

  • H
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    My family makes their living through the fishery and for years all you hear about are processors, processors . Guess what processors, without the fishermen/women out there you wouldn't have anything to process so it isn't only your whining backs that need to be looked out for.

  • Industry robbing nature
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    In the fishermens case this is a career and in the other case, well, its a job. In most cases they are making a barrel of money and they don't even have to touch it. These guys want to make a quick buck on the fishermens heads. Don't let them! They'ed rather kill the chicken than live off the eggs. And thats why its in the state it is today, because the biggest catch is in their briefcase.

  • Fishes
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Why don't the fishermen pull their heads out of their backsides and form their own co-operative to buy and process the fish?

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    The plant owners are still trying to screw the fishermen out of earning a fair wage for their product.

    I think Earl McCurdy should be replaced as he is not there for the fishermen, he is there for the union. He may have done some good for the fishery, but he has since burnt his candle out, burnt to the quick. He no longer bangs his fist on hardwood desks, and his voice has mellowed to that of a once aged work horse. He should be put out to pasture and sit around with others who have helped to ruin the Newfoundland fishery.

    The fishermen themselves know what is happening, the processors are taking away our jobs, giving jobs to China, Poland and Vietnam. In such a wealthy country with so much resources, we are not doing so much good for our people. We give our jobs to others, put our people on welfare, then buy our processed products back from other countries, and Mr. MCCurdy continues to collect a big salary and keeps his buddies financially fit too.

    There is someone out there who can replace this burnt out candle, Mr. McCurdy, and bring new light to our fishery.

  • BILL
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    Here we go again. I guess Mccurdy wants their name in the news so they can keep their big company cars and exppense accounts. Well if the fisherman wnts to keep paying their UNION dues to them well they are more stupid than I thought they were

  • jason
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    as a fisherman who had to go to alberta again this fall and winter when is fisherman going to stop ilegal fishing.this ilegal fishing is not going on with other countries, but here with our own fisherman.if the crab price come down at under 1.50/lb let us leave it in the water.alot of fisherman out there dont care what the price is because they will bring in 1000s of pounds over there quota anyway to make up the diffferance!!!you know in a way it serves us right,because iam at fault i never told on them and your at fault for destroying alot of honest peoples livelyhoods.i just hope i dont see you up here looking for a job ill make sure you will never get one with my company

  • Mario
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    The fishery is dead, sell your boats and find a new job.

  • Robert
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    Now please people, before you start hurling your stupid poor fishermen comments, actually read the story hey? The Processors have said they won't sit down and negotiate fish prices because they don't like the fish price-setting panel - which acts like an arbitrator when harvesters and processors can't agree on a price. This is not fishermen moaning or bawling - this is plant owners not even willing to come to the negotiating table.

  • H
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    My family makes their living through the fishery and for years all you hear about are processors, processors . Guess what processors, without the fishermen/women out there you wouldn't have anything to process so it isn't only your whining backs that need to be looked out for.

  • Industry robbing nature
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    In the fishermens case this is a career and in the other case, well, its a job. In most cases they are making a barrel of money and they don't even have to touch it. These guys want to make a quick buck on the fishermens heads. Don't let them! They'ed rather kill the chicken than live off the eggs. And thats why its in the state it is today, because the biggest catch is in their briefcase.

  • Fishes
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Why don't the fishermen pull their heads out of their backsides and form their own co-operative to buy and process the fish?

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    The plant owners are still trying to screw the fishermen out of earning a fair wage for their product.

    I think Earl McCurdy should be replaced as he is not there for the fishermen, he is there for the union. He may have done some good for the fishery, but he has since burnt his candle out, burnt to the quick. He no longer bangs his fist on hardwood desks, and his voice has mellowed to that of a once aged work horse. He should be put out to pasture and sit around with others who have helped to ruin the Newfoundland fishery.

    The fishermen themselves know what is happening, the processors are taking away our jobs, giving jobs to China, Poland and Vietnam. In such a wealthy country with so much resources, we are not doing so much good for our people. We give our jobs to others, put our people on welfare, then buy our processed products back from other countries, and Mr. MCCurdy continues to collect a big salary and keeps his buddies financially fit too.

    There is someone out there who can replace this burnt out candle, Mr. McCurdy, and bring new light to our fishery.