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FISH-NL ends quest to become certified labour union for Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters

FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary announced Tuesday the group is ceasing its efforts to become a certified labour union for inshore harvesters.
FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary announced Tuesday the group is ceasing its efforts to become a certified labour union for inshore harvesters. - Joe Gibbons

FFAW intends to work toward building strong inshore fishery

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

After three years of failed attempts to form a new union to solely represent the interests of inshore harvesters, FISH-NL's executive has decided to call it a day.

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador was in the midst of a second membership drive for the purpose of filing another application for certification to the Labour Relations Board, but those efforts were halted Tuesday morning, as FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary announced the group was ceasing its action.

"FISH-NL has collected more cards than in 2016 when we presented 2,372 to the Labour Relations Board, but our total number of cards is still far fewer than the 4,000-mark set by the board to trigger the vote," Cleary wrote in a statement posted on the organization's website.

FISH-NL was formed in 2016 to represent the interests of the province’s inshore harvesters. FISH-NL's executive has repeatedly accused the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union (FFAW-Unifor) of losing its way and holding a monopoly over the fishing industry in light of the diverse parties it represents.

"In representing all sectors of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, the FFAW-Unifor represents no one group of workers as they should be represented," Cleary wrote in the statement shared to the FISH-NL website. "A saltwater monopoly breeds suspicion and mistrust, and weakens the entire industry. The FFAW is in a conflict of interest with the federal government, with oil and gas companies, and with its own members." 

The Labour Relations Board rejected FISH-NL's certification application last fall, determining it did not get membership cards from 40 per cent of registered inshore harvesters, of which there are approximately 10,000. FISH-NL has disputed this figure.

FFAW President Keith Sullivan. - SaltWire File Photo
FFAW President Keith Sullivan. - SaltWire File Photo


In a news release, FFAW-Unifor president Keith Sullivan called Tuesday's announcement from FISH-NL "unsurprising."

"The overall response we’ve been hearing from our members all over the province is that FISH-NL is not the answer to the challenges our industry is facing,” Sullivan said. “We remain committed to working with all our members, including anyone who signed a FISH-NL card, to improve the industry and make the inshore fishery better for the people of our province."

In the release, the FFAW said FISH-NL has consistently spread misinformation about the union, its leadership and the work it does to represent its members.

“It is clear this group has done nothing but create turmoil and unrest in our coastal communities, pitting fish harvesters against plant workers, skippers against crew," Sullivan stated in the release. "FISH-NL has repeatedly discounted the value of fish harvesters participating in fisheries science and management and has attacked the significant work of harvesters who give their time to volunteer positions on councils and committees.”

Meanwhile, Cleary encouraged supporters of FISH-NL to keep fighting again mismanagement, conflicts of interest, favouritism and unfair, undemocratic union practices. 

"Keep fighting for what’s right — because there’s so much wrong in today’s fishery," he wrote. "And everybody knows it."


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