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FISH-NL kicks off second ratification drive

FISH-NL secretary/treasurer Jason Sullivan signs his membership card during a news conference Monday at FISH-NL's offices in St. John’s, while FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary looks on.
FISH-NL secretary/treasurer Jason Sullivan signs his membership card during a news conference Monday at FISH-NL's offices in St. John’s, while FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary looks on. - Sam McNeish

Hoping to have required 4,000 signatures by Nov. 8 in order to apply to the Labour Relations Board

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The landscape is a lot clearer the second time around for the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters — Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL).

The group embarked Monday morning on its second attempt to be ratified as a union to represent inshore fishermen across the province.

FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary has led the charge and hopes the outcome of this 90-day drive that commenced Monday will have a different outcome.

“We have been battling for this for three long years and now it’s down to 90 days for us to try and make a second application on Nov. 8,’’ Cleary said.

“According to the FFAW there are about 10,000 inshore harvesters. What we learned from the first process is we need 40 per cent of that, (which) would trigger a vote."

In its first attempt, FISH-NL secured 2,372 members, but fell short of the 40 per cent required to proceed with the vote. Based on the numbers provided to FISH-NL, it requires about 4,000 signatures.

“One single union can’t represent all areas of this fishery. They all don’t work under one umbrella." — Ryan Cleary

The first two cards were signed and paid for at the news conference by FISH-NL vice-president Peter Leonard and secretary-treasurer Jason Sullivan, who each paid the $5 and signed a card.

Cleary said there are a number of outside buyers looking for product, and ratifying FISH-NL could bring about positive change to the system for inshore fishermen who seek to sell to those buyers.

“One single union can’t represent all areas of this fishery. They all don’t work under one umbrella,” he said.

To be eligible for membership, a fisherman must have made one sale in their name in either 2018 or 2019, and union dues had to be subtracted from them by the processor and remitted to the union — either FFAW/Unifor or FISH-NL.

Cards were sent out last Friday to area captains, who will distribute them to the fishermen that FISH-NL is seeking to represent. Those captains will collect the completed cards and fees.

The second part of the process will see a tour of the province start on Aug. 26, with the aim of drumming up support. Details of the tour will be released once they are finalized.

“This needs to happen. Inshore harvesters will benefit from this and fishing can move forward,’’ said Sullivan, a Bay Bulls-based fisherman.

“If we get these cards signed, subsequently we can get an application to the Labour Relations Board to make this happen.’’

“I don’t fish for free. If they want to load that onto a truck and take it to Boston, they will find out what it’s worth." — Jason Sullivan

Sullivan said it was ironic that he and others were gathered on Monday to create a positive change for the inshore fishermen, when FFAW/Unifor members were giving away fish in two locations — on the St. John’s waterfront and in Old Perlican.

“I don’t fish for free. If they want to load that onto a truck and take it to Boston, they will find out what it’s worth,’’ he said.

“I’d be embarrassed to see that on the waterfront.’’

Sullivan said it is incumbent of all inshore fishermen to look at the situation and give each of their rural economies a chance to grow and prosper.

“We need all inshore harvesters to take the time and talk to each other about the future of their enterprises, families and communities, and vote for the freedom to chart their own destiny,” he said.


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