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UPDATE: Fight or fold: FISH-NL on the brink

FISH-NL executive says it will fold at the end of April if membership doesn't pay up.
FISH-NL executive says it will fold at the end of April if membership doesn't pay up. - Joe Gibbons

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) will close by the end of April — and abandon a second attempt at certification — unless inshore fish harvesters step up to the plate and pay their dues, the group announced on Monday.

A news release notes that FISH-NL was on the brink of closure early last fall after the province’s Labour Relations Board dismissed its application for certification — almost two years after it was filed. Instead, FISH-NL challenged a minimum of 500 harvesters to step forward and pay membership dues of $288 a year.

While the goal was exceeded, only roughly 300 harvesters actually followed through and paid dues. Most of the rest indicated they are either waiting until fishing starts, or weren’t aware they would still have to pay dues to their current union, the Fish, Food and Allied Workers—Unifor (FFAW-Unifor).

“I’ll say it again, and I’m speaking to inshore harvesters in the province, FISH-NL can do this with you, but we can’t do it for you,” FISH-NL President Ryan Cleary said during a news conference.

“The FISH-NL executive is not prepared to lead a second membership drive that’s guaranteed to fail, and it will fail without the support of harvesters.”

In order to force a vote for inshore harvesters to choose between FISH-NL and FFAW-Unifor, half of the harvesters must sign membership cards in a card-signing campaign that would likely run between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31, the release noted.

“Think of a membership drive the same as an election campaign. You can’t win a campaign unless it’s staffed and financed,” Cleary said. “This isn’t the first time FISH-NL has asked harvesters to step up to the plate, but it will be the last.”

FISH-NL estimates it would need a minimum of $150,000 (or the support of at least 500 more harvesters in paying dues) to follow through with a second application for certification.

Peter Leonard, vice-president of FISH-NL and an inshore harvester from Southern Harbour, said it is time for the labour dispute to come to a head.

“This has been going on now for two and a half years and harvesters are going to have to pay their way for the change they asked for,” he said. “You can’t expect the same fishermen to pay the way of their neighbours and fellow harvesters. We all have to step up together. Pay up or the fight is over. No money, no FISH-NL.”

Related story:

It’s dues or die for breakaway Newfoundland fish harvester's union

Earlier story:

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) says it will close at the end of April if inshore harvesters don’t step up to pay membership fees. 

Of the more than 500 inshore harvesters who agreed to pay membership fees last year, only about 300 have done so leaving FISH-NL short of being able to continue on and launch another membership drive, and file another application with the labour relations board to be certified to represent the province’s inshore fishermen.

“To inshore fishermen, we can do it with you, we can’t do it for you,” said Fish-NL president Ryan Cleary.

“We are going public a final time, because this struggle isn’t just a fight between two unions. It’s about the future of the fishery and all we hold dear.”

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