PORT SAUNDERS, NL – Despite threats of a lawsuit and a demand for an apology, fish harvester Conway Caines remains defiant in his criticism of FFAW-Unifor.
In September, Caines made harsh remarks on VOCM’s “Open Line” program, alleging that the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union is an unlawful enterprise.
His accusations of backdoor dealings stem from the 2016 Supreme Court decision in favour of scallop harvesters over the FFAW. The harvesters had sought compensation from the FFAW due to the loss of fishing grounds along the Strait of Belle Isle.
In the court case, it was revealed the union had negotiated proposals with Nalcor without the permission of harvesters in the region.
Caines says his disparaging remarks about the FFAW were justified and he does not regret making them.
“Those fellows don’t intimidate me…,” Caines told the Northern Pen. “It went through Supreme Court. What happened there was disgusting and disgraceful… and now they want to sue me for speaking out about it.”
Last week Caines received a letter from St. John’s-based law firm O’Dea Earle, citing his remarks and demanding an apology to the union. Caines says he was given the opportunity by Paddy Daly to go on “Open Line” to apologize, but he turned him down.
“It’s not slander or defamation, it’s accurate criticisms. I was there in the courtroom myself,” said Caines. “If I’m not allowed to go on public radio, and talk about what happened, then what country are we living in?”
Through his years as a fisherman, Caines says he’s had a long history of criticizing the FFAW, and this was the not the first time the organization has been upset with him.
“One time I knew every rule and regulation that was out there,” he said. “Now, they’re changing it all that fast, you get a knot in your gut every time you go out in boat. You don’t know what you’re going to do wrong when you’re out there.
“It’s at the point now that the union is controlling us that much and we’re not allowed to speak out.”
Caines lives in Parson’s Pond with his father, but also owns a home in Port Saunders, where his children live. The letter to him, dated Sept. 22, calls on Caines to retract and apologize for his statements, which the FFAW call false and defaming, within 10 days.
There has been no indication if Caines will wind up in court over his remarks, but he is steadfast in standing by them, no matter what comes next.
“I’ve got no money for a lawyer, haven’t even made enough to get my unemployment,” said Caines. “They can come sue, but over my dead body they’ll get my youngsters’ house.”
FFAW president Keith Sullivan was contacted for comment but did not respond by deadline. Union representative Jason Spingle declined comment.