The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is organizing a Day of Action for Wednesday which it says will be a final opportunity for the province’s inshore harvesters to organize to break free from their current union.
“It’s been made more than clear that the FFAW-Unifor is not working in the best interests of inshore harvesters,” Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL, said in a news release.
“Fishermen know the score, but it’s in their hands now. They have spent years complaining on the wharf about the FFAW, but now the time has come to either join the harvesters putting up a fight, sign a card, and take a stand, or accept the scraps they’re been left with by Ottawa, the other provinces, foreign nations, offshore companies, and the FFAW.”
FISH-NL needs at least 4,000 signed cards — representing 40 per cent of the 10,000 inshore harvesters that are claimed to be working in the province — to trigger a vote for harvesters to choose which union they want to represent them.
FISH-NL says it is not close to the 4,000-card mark.
FISH-NL’s Day of Action will involve the organization of strategic locations around Newfoundland and Labrador where harvesters can visit on Wednesday (between 2 p.m.-6 p.m.) to either drop off or sign membership cards. The list of the locations will be released on Monday.
If this last attempt to sign cards fails, Cleary and Peter Leonard, an inshore harvester from Southern Harbour and Vice-President of FISH-NL, will step down.
“There’s one thing we know, FISH-NL has the support of the majority of inshore harvesters,” Leonard said. “However, unlike most enterprise owners there are too many crewmen who aren’t taking this serious enough to get a card in.”
The release notes the rules dictating the amount of support needed to trigger a vote are set by the province’s Labour Relations Board. To be eligible to sign a card, a person must have had a single fish sale in their name this year or in 2018 with dues remitted to the FFAW, or have an up-to-date registration with the FFAW-controlled Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board.
FISH-NL’s membership drive began on Aug. 12. The law sets aside a 90-day timeline to collect membership cards.
“If FISH-NL does not collect at least 4,000 signed cards, we will not be submitting an application for certification,” Cleary said.
“It’s been an honour and an inspiration to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with harvesters around the province who have invested time and money in the cause, but we need more fight to make this work. We can do this with harvesters, but not for them.
“Other members of the executive and I have dedicated three years of our lives to FISH-NL because we believe it's not only inshore harvesters who are suffering under the reign of the FFAW-Unifor, but rural communities, and the entire province. Ultimately, the decision rests with individual harvesters — licenses holders and crew alike — as to whether they are up for this fight. I hope to see many more sign cards on the Day of Action.”
The Labour Relations Board rejected FISH-NL’s first application for certification in the fall of 2018 — 22 months after it was submitted. Once the board finally settled on the definition of an inshore harvester, they ruled the 2,372 cards submitted with FISH-NL's application were not enough to justify a vote.