The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) began the second phase of its province-wide membership drive Monday morning with a news conference at dockside in St. John’s.
FISH-NL President Ryan Cleary and other members of FISH-NL met with members of the media, displaying their campaign camper trailer that members will take on the road.
The ultimate goal is to get enough inshore fishermen to sign membership cards to force a showdown with the Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ (FFAW-Unifor) over which union inshore fishermen want to represent them.
“We’ll be going from wharf to wharf and stage to stage so harvesters can finally break free of the FFAW-Unifor — and the inshore fishery can start moving forward,” Cleary said.
“One union (FFAW-Unifor) cannot represent the entire fishery — certainly not one that’s in a conflict of interest with oil companies, the federal government, and its own members.”
A news release states the first wave of FISH-NL’s drive began on Aug. 12 when thousands of membership cards began circulating around the province — including to more than 170 card captains. The second wave — which will begin on the Great Northern Peninsula — is to speak directly to harvesters, and to collect their cards.
The membership drive will conclude on Nov. 8 when FISH-NL will submit the membership cards as part of an application for certification to the province’s Labour Relations Board.
The release explains that the membership drive is required by provincial labour legislation to trigger a secret-ballot vote for harvesters to choose their union representation. To trigger a vote, at least 40 per cent of harvesters must sign FISH-NL membership cards, which can be signed no more than 90 days prior to the submission of the application.
To be eligible to sign a FISH-NL card, a person must have a fish sale in their name during 2018 or 2019, with union dues collected and remitted by a fish processor/buyer. A harvester can also have an up-to-date registration with the Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board.
FFAW-Unifor, meanwhile, claims the FISH-NL campaign is doing nothing more than dividing members of the province’s largest private sector union.
“Fish harvesters want to focus on the major issues facing our industry,” said Keith Sullivan, President of FFAW-Unifor. “What the inshore fishery needs right now is fish harvesters working together to take on big corporations who would love nothing more than to see our union divided. What we don’t need is another FISH-NL campaign that pits harvester against harvester.”
The FFAW-Unifor news release states that uniting workers in the fishing industry through a single union has delivered significant benefits to both fish harvesters and plant workers in the 50-year history of FFAW-Unifor and its predecessor unions.
“What is most offensive about FISH-NL is their repeated attempts to question the legitimacy of thousands of fish harvesters in the province,” said Sullivan. “There are thousands of fish harvesters whose status as a harvester has been questioned by Ryan Cleary and FISH-NL and they are not willing to compromise their future by supporting this irresponsible group.”
Loomis Way, a fish harvester from Green Island Cove, said fish harvesters and plant workers share an industry and communities.
“It will only benefit the companies if we are divided,” Way said. “We are much stronger when we work together and support one another.”
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is hitting the road in an attempt to bolster up its membership drive.
Monday morning at Prosser's Rock Small Boat Basin at Fort Amherst in St. John's, the executive unveiled its new Ford E-450 Super Duty RV that will take it on a province-wide tour to obtain the 4,000 signatures it needs in order to trigger a secret-ballot vote for harvesters to choose their union representation.
"We’ll be going from wharf to wharf and stage to stage so harvesters can finally break free of the FFAW-Unifor — and the inshore fishery can start moving forward," president Ryan Cleary stated in a release.
The Labour Relations Board application deadline is Nov. 8.
In its release, FISH-NL vice president Peter Leonard says the Fish, Food, and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor) has been in a panic mode since this second wave of membership has been announced.
“But no matter what FFAW throws on the table over the next two months it won’t change the fact one union cannot represent the entire fishery — certainly not one that’s in a conflict of interest with oil companies, the federal government, and its own members.”
The latest membership drive kicks off on the Great Northern Peninsula.