FISH-NL and FFAW still at odds over har­vester numbers

List from Labour Re­la­tions Board be­ing re­viewed by both sides

Northern Pen - - FOCUS - BY ASH­LEY FITZPATRICK THE TELE­GRAM

There is still no of­fi­cial list, no fi­nal count of New­found­land and Labrador in­shore fish har­vesters for the pur­poses of de­ter­min­ing if there will be a vote on a break­away union.

Lead­ers with the Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Sea Har­vesters New­found­land and Labrador (FISH-NL) and the Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAWUni­for) union have dis­puted who has a bet­ter to­tal count on har­vesters — one truly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of in­shore in­dus­try par­tic­i­pa­tion. The numbers be­ing floated are very dif­fer­ent, by thou­sands of in­di­vid­u­als.

De­ter­min­ing an ac­tual work­ing list of har­vesters is es­sen­tial and the Labour Re­la­tions Board has now ap­par­ently is­sued a list of names to both sides as a start­ing point.

Ac­cord­ing to FISH-NL lead­ers, at a news con­fer­ence Thursday morn­ing, this list of har­vesters is sig­nif­i­cant for its to­tal count: 6,371 peo­ple. The num­ber, they say, is far closer to FISH-NL’s es­ti­mate than to the FFAW’s past state­ments.

“From 10,200 down to 6,371 — a dif­fer­ence of al­most 4,000, or 40 per cent, is more than an ex­ag­ger­a­tion,” FISH-NL pres­i­dent Ryan Cleary said, adding that FISH-NL based its pre­vi­ously re­ported es­ti­mate on a count of har­vesters fil­ing em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance claims.

The in­for­ma­tion from the labour board would still be a prob­lem for FISH-NL. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ap­pli­ca­tion for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in­cluded 2,372 mem­ber­ship cards from in­shore har­vesters and that fig­ure — if the new list is ac­cepted as fi­nal — would fall short of the 40 per cent sup­port needed to trig­ger a vote.

Cleary told re­porters it’s not the end of the ef­fort.

“While FISH-NL has only had a cur­sory look at the board’s list, we know some fish­er­men are in­cluded who have passed away, oth­ers who no longer fish and still more who work … in other full-time in­dus­tries. So the ball is now in our court,” he said.

FISH-NL ex­ec­u­tive and sup­port teams have started go­ing through the list name by name, try­ing to track down in­di­vid­u­als and ver­ify their work.

The FFAW-Uni­for says the board’s list was never said to be a com­plete one. The union sug­gested the list will grow yet, not shrink. It is also ver­i­fy­ing names — ones that might be added to the board’s count.

“In fact, in our re­view of the list we have found sev­eral thou­sand ac­tive, com­mer­cial fish har­vesters are not listed,” FFAW-Uni­for pres­i­dent Keith Sul­li­van said in a state­ment is­sued as the FISH-NL news con­fer­ence in St. John’s was still on­go­ing.

The FFAW-Uni­for state­ment said the union is fol­low­ing the re­quired process, not­ing no de­ci­sions have yet been made by the Labour Re­la­tions Board.

“This is sim­ply an­other des­per­ate at­tempt by Ryan Cleary and FISH-NL to ex­ag­ger­ate and spin a step in the board’s process in an ef­fort to le­git­imize FISH-NL’s fledg­ling cam­paign to ob­tain a mem­ber­ship vote with­out hav­ing met the re­quire­ments set by leg­is­la­tion,” it reads, adding that the FFAWUni­for re­spects the on­go­ing process.

“Cleary’s sideshows do a dis­ser­vice to the in­dus­try and only dis­tract from the se­ri­ous work to be done by our mem­bers.”

The news re­lease di­rected any fur­ther ques­tions to the union’s lawyer, Tom John­son.

The Labour Re­la­tions Board has told The Tele­gram it does not com­ment on ac­tive files.

Mean­while, FISH-NL rep­re­sen­ta­tives said they have been bol­stered in their con­tin­ued push for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by a re­cent mis­sion to western Canada, where they met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from in­de­pen­dent unions.

Listed FISH-NL sup­port­ers now in­clude: the Cana­dian Main­te­nance and Al­lied Work­ers Canada, rep­re­sent­ing con­struc­tion work­ers in Bri­tish Columbia; the Cana­dian Union of Skilled Work­ers, rep­re­sent­ing about 3,000 elec­tri­cians and re­lated trades work­ers in the en­ergy sec­tor in On­tario; and the Pub­lic and Pri­vate Work­ers of Canada, rep­re­sent­ing about 3,000 Bri­tish Columbian work­ers in a va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries, from credit unions to air­ports.

Be­fore end­ing the FISH-NL news con­fer­ence, Cleary held up a hand and drew his thumb and in­dex fin­ger a hair away from each other.

“We are that close,” he said.

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