A way of life disappearing
The fishery has become a game of concessions. Rightly or wrongly, the industry wants its workers to make up for the losses it has suffered in the marketplace, with prices for different species of fish going one way – down into a black hole.
Harvesters claim the prices producers and buyers want to pay them means it’s not worth their while to even consider putting their boats in the water. With fuel, insurance and the cost of supplies continuing to climb, harvesters are faced with going in the red before they even make up their minds to fish.
Sealers decided not to go to the front this spring because the price for seal pelts sank to around $15; the price of crab was set at $1.35 a pound by a provincial pricing panel – which the producers claim they can’t and won’t pay and harvesters claim they need $1.50 to make it worth their while; flounder catches were that small, in individual size, Ocean Choice International lobbied the government for authorization to send out undersize fish to China for processing and lobster prices have remained on shaky ground for years.
The king cod is making only sporadic returns after almost two decades.
Now, the FFAW has started negotiations on a new contract for its fish plant workers and OCI wants concessions on wage rates. Apparently, labour costs are the one large expenditure employers feel need to be brought under stricter control.
The industry that has sustained this island for over 500 years is now failing fast. The new Century started off on a downward slide and continues throughout this first decade.
Harvesters are being backed into a corner and forced to decide if the fishery, which had provided a living for themselves for 30 years or more and prior to that for their fathers and grandfathers, is going to be the source of a respectable livelihood their own families.
Sure, there have been snide comments about fishermen pleading poverty and then going out and buying new trucks and recreational ‘toys’ for themselves.
The federal and provincial governments have poured millions of dollars into the industry because of its social nature. The argument is ‘if the fishery is not saved, then families and whole communities will cease to exist in this province’.
The industry/producers want concessions from their workers to widen the profit margin, and the unions/workers are trying to stand fast and maintain what they have.
It’s human nature you want to keep what you have become accustomed to, and not surrender anything you’re used to having.
Fishery workers look on their employers as exhibiting the characteristics of the merchants of old, when these buyers hoarded the wealth for themselves and the fishermen slaved for little or nothing. But the producers believe their bottom line for a profitable industry is being breached and they, too, can’t give anymore.
The economic world recession, high Canadian dollar and collapsing markets have again pitted employer against employee, and this outcome can have no happy ending.