Bound­less gen­eros­ity

The Compass - - OPIN­ION -

“I was hun­gry and you gave me to eat. Thirsty and you gave me to drink...” We may not say them —or even think about them — every day. But when it comes to the Cor­po­ral Works of Mercer, New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans do some­thing bet­ter; we put them into prac­tice, in spades.

In­stead of preach­ing about what the gov­ern­ment or some­one else should be do­ing to help those in need, we put our money, our time and our tal­ent where are mouths are. We’re na­tion­ally rec­og­nized for our giv­ing na­ture.

On a per capi­tia ba­sis, we gen­er­ally lead the coun­try in con­tri­bu­tions to wor­thy causes. One does not have to look very far to find ex­am­ples of our gen­er­ous na­ture. In or­di­nary times of peace and rel­a­tive pros­per­ity, we give more than our fare share. But it is in those ex­traor­di­nary times that we re­ally shine.

The hard­ship caused to so many by the dev­as­ta­tion wrought by Hur­ri­cane Igor is a prime ex­am­ple of one of those ex­traor­di­nary times.

When the peo­ple of Catalina on the north side of Trin­ity Bay were cut off from the rest of civ­i­liza­tion and start­ing to run low on food, wa­ter and the ne­ces­si­ties of life, the peo­ple of Old Per­li­can and area col­lected and sent a boat­load of sup­plies to help their stricken friends across the bay. It was an act of hu­man kind­ness that brought clergy to tears.

A few days af­ter that VOCM raised over a $1 mil­lion for the Igor dis­as­ter re­lief fund dur­ing a day-long, province-wide ra­dio-a-thon. That ex­traor­di­nary ef­fort was a hard act to fol­low for any other ma­jor fundrais­ing event com­ing af­ter it. As gen­er­ous as we are, there are only so many char­i­ta­ble dol­lars to go around.

Un­der the cir­cum­stances, or­ga­niz­ers of the 21st Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion-Pla­cen­tia Health Foun­da­tion Telethon were un­der­stand­ably a lit­tle anx­ious over the out­come of their event. Chief or­ga­nizer Don Coombs even ad­mit­ted, he thought their num­bers might be down this year. “But the peo­ple proved me wrong again,” he told us last week.

In­stead of be­ing down, the telethon ac­tu­ally ex­ceeded its goal again this year. In fact, there was only one time in its 21-year his­tory, a cou­ple of years ago, when the event did not reach its tar­get that year.

Through the telethon and the foun­da­tion’s other fundrais­ing events, the peo­ple of Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion have contributed over $7 mil­lion to­wards health care equip­ment over the past two decades.

An­other ex­am­ple of our gen­eros­ity know­ing no bounds. Dear edi­tor,

There has been a lot said in the me­dia in re­cent months about fish­eries ra­tio­nal­iza­tion, as if it was some kind of goal in it­self.

The ap­proach the FFAW/CAW has taken in meet­ings re­lated to the Me­moran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing (MOU) with the pro­ces­sors and the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is that in­comes in the fish­ing in­dus­try are too low and eco­nomic re­turns for fish­ing en­ter­prise own­ers are too low and too un­sta­ble.

Our goal is to im­prove the in­comes of peo­ple work­ing in both the fish plants and aboard fish­ing ves­sels, and pro­vide the eco­nomic ba­sis for sus­tain­able fish­eries, sus­tain­able fish­ing en­ter­prises and sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties.

Done prop­erly, fleet ra­tio­nal­iza­tion is a tool that can help achieve that goal. The most im­por­tant word to stress up front is “vol­un­tary.” Fleet ra­tio­nal­iza­tion is not about a head count or some kind of bu­reau­cratic num­bers game.

There are clearly sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of en­ter­prise own­ers who would like the op­por­tu­nity to re­tire from the fish­ery. This has been made very clear in sur­veys our union con­ducted amongst the mem­ber­ship. The sim­plest way to achieve this would be through a li­cence buy­out, but the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, un­for­tu­nately, is miss­ing in ac­tion.

En­ter­prise com­bin­ing, the so­lu­tion of­fered

Dear edi­tor,

I am a New­found­land writer (Domino, Tsunami, Sheilagh’s Brush) who is writ­ing a biography of Cap­tain Bob Bartlett.

I would love to hear from any­one who met Bartlett or has any­thing they feel would be use­ful to con­trib­ute.

While Bartlett’s Arc­tic hero­ics will be in­cluded in the book, I am much more in­ter­ested up by the two lev­els of gov­ern­ment in 2007, has not worked in most cases, be­cause it re­sults in way too much debt in the com­bined en­ter­prise. That’s where the MOU comes in. It pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for a gov­ern­ment/in­dus­try cost-shared fleet re­duc­tion pro­gram, on a strictly vol­un­tary ba­sis.

If there are fewer par­tic­i­pants in a par­tic­u­lar fish­ery, that means in­creased rev­enue for those who re­main — the pie does not have to be di­vided into so many pieces. In­creased gross rev­enue is only of value if the im­prove­ment is not wiped out by higher debt load.

A fleet re­duc­tion over sev­eral years would also be ben­e­fi­cial to plant work­ers, and to the pro­cess­ing sec­tor as a whole. A smaller fleet would re­duce peak land­ings and spread the work out more evenly over the pro­cess­ing sea­son. This would re­duce the de­mand for ca­sual work­ers and in­crease the amount of work avail­able for the core work­force.

Dividing the pie into fewer pieces is only part of the so­lu­tion. We also have to make the pie big­ger. That is where fun­da­men­tal change in our sales and mar­ket­ing struc­ture is needed. That el­e­ment is crit­i­cal to the MOU.

The most con­tro­ver­sial is­sue un­der the MOU process is pro­cess­ing sec­tor ra­tio­nal­iza­tion. There is a le­git­i­mate fear among har­vesters that this would re­duce com­pe­ti­tion for raw ma­te­rial, and a le­git­i­mate fear among plant work­ers that they would be left high and dry if a plant closed.

The FFAW’s po­si­tion is that any ra­tio­nal­iza­tion in the pro­cess­ing sec­tor would re­quire that sev­eral pre-con­di­tions be met: fleet ra­tio­nal­iza­tion would have to be un­der­way first, be­cause the cur­rent plant ca­pac­ity is needed for the cur­rent fleet ca­pac­ity; a fullfledged worker ad­just­ment pro­gram, in­clud­ing an early re­tire­ment op­tion, would have to be in place for af­fected plant work­ers; fun­da­men­tal changes to our ap­proach to sales and mar­ket­ing, in­clud­ing full trans­parency about mar­ket prices and trends, would have to be in place; gov­ern­ment would have to re­con­firm the piv­otal role of the Stand­ing Fish Price-Set­ting Panel to re­solve any price dis­putes that may arise; any pro­gram would have to en­sure that ad­e­quate ca­pac­ity ex­ists, re­gion by re­gion, to en­sure a com­pet­i­tive port mar­ket with har­vesters in all sizes of ves­sels hav­ing rea­son­able ac­cess to a mar­ket for their catch.

The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is not sus­tain­able. It doesn’t pro­vide rea­son­able in­comes. It doesn’t pro­vide any sta­bil­ity to fish­ing en­ter­prises and com­mu­ni­ties. Change won’t come easy, but the sta­tus quo is clearly not a so­lu­tion. We would be let­ting down fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of ru­ral New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans if we didn’t face the chal­lenge head on.

Earle McCurdy Pres­i­dent, FFAW/CAW

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