Sta­tus of FISH-NL now with Labour Re­la­tions Board

Would-be union lead­ers say they have num­bers needed for a vote


The Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Sea Har­vesters of New­found­land and Labrador (FISH-NL) has ap­plied to the Labour Re­la­tions Board for an of­fi­cial vote for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as a trade union.

FISH-NL pres­i­dent Ryan Cleary, with har­vester Ja­son Sul­li­van, de­liv­ered their box of ap­pli­ca­tion ma­te­ri­als Dec. 29, be­fore hold­ing a news con­fer­ence at the FISH-NL of­fice off Job Street in St. John’s.

Sit­ting with fish har­vester and FISH-NL sup­porter Peter Leonard, the trio said they are con­fi­dent they have pro­vided the board with enough valid mem­ber­ship cards from in­shore fish har­vesters to trig­ger a vote.

At the same time, they would not pro­vide the num­ber of their of­fi­cial sup­port­ers.

It is now up to the board to de­ter­mine whether or not FISH-NL has met its re­quired mark.

Trig­ger­ing a vote on a new union will re­quire the board to con­firm FISH-NL has a min­i­mum of 40 per cent of all cer­ti­fied fish har­vesters. Cleary said the ap­pli­ca­tion in­cludes more than 50 per cent, but would re­veal noth­ing fur­ther about num­bers.

The Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW-Uni­for) cur­rently rep­re­sents the in­shore fish har­vesters tar­geted in the FISH-NL re­cruit­ment drive. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the union said the lat­est num­bers from the Fish Har­vesters’ Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Board show about 10,800 har­vesters in the prov­ince, and they don’t be­lieve FISH-NL has the num­bers needed.

Ac­cu­sa­tions of mis­con­duct were lev­eled on both sides.

“We’ve been get­ting mes­sages from just as re­cently as yes­ter­day from peo­ple that are re­tired like two or three years, hus­band and wife, that are get­ting let­ters all of a sud­den from the FFAW. So we’re pretty con­cerned they’re pad­ding their num­bers (of har­vesters),” Sul­li­van said. “We know they’ve been con­tact­ing peo­ple that ac­tu­ally died while fish­ing and stuff, con­tacted wi­d­ows and stuff, send­ing let­ters, so we know that their num­bers are go­ing to be in­flated. Once we get their list, we’ve got to go through it and see who’s ac­tu­ally alive, who’s not re­tired, who’s ac­tu­ally a fish­er­man.”

Cleary and Sul­li­van said FISH-NL was never given ac­cess to a list of in­shore har­vesters - and was ac­tu­ally re­fused ac­cess by the pro­vin­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tion board - and claimed the FFAW-Uni­for has been work­ing with that board to bump up the num­bers to as­sure FISH-NL is not cer­ti­fied as a union.

The FFAW-Uni­for’s David Decker told The Tele­gram the num­bers of har­vesters, when looked at over mul­ti­ple years, will be enough ev­i­dence to re­fute those claims.

On the other hand, he claimed the FFAW-Uni­for has ev­i­dence of FISH-NL pumping up its num­bers.

“There are clearly in­ci­dents of fraud­u­lent and tainted cards that we will be pre­sent­ing (as) ev­i­dence be­fore the board,” Decker said.

Nei­ther side has pro­vided in­di­vid­ual names for fol­lowup, or any re­lated ev­i­dence to the me­dia.

FISH-NL’s ap­pli­ca­tion to the Labour Re­la­tions Board is an ap­pli­ca­tion to rep­re­sent all in­shore fish har­vesters. Cleary said there was le­gal ad­vice sug­gest­ing breaking up into spe­cific ar­eas might be an op­tion, but the or­ga­ni­za­tion ul­ti­mately de­cided against that ap­proach.

“Win, lose or draw, after this the har­vesters of New­found­land and Labrador have got­ten a vic­tory,” said Leonard, who made it clear long­stand­ing is­sues of some har­vesters with the FFAW-Uni­for will not be left alone or kept quiet.

Cleary said FISH-NL has raised about $38,000 (mostly from do­na­tions) and will con­tinue re­gard­less of the out­come, even if it does not win trade union sta­tus and bar­gain­ing rights.

Decker said the FFAW-Uni­for did not pro­vide a list of har­vester names to the FISH-NL lead­er­ship be­cause it did not want to en­cour­age the group.

“The is­sue here is we’ve got a union to run and lots of work to do and cer­tainly not fa­cil­i­tat­ing raids on the or­ga­ni­za­tion,” he said.

At the same time, the is­sues raised through­out FISH-NL’s 47-meeting re­cruit­ment drive and the gen­eral chal­lenge to union lead­er­ship have not gone with­out some re­flec­tion.

When it comes to meet­ings with mem­bers around the prov­ince, Decker said there are reg­u­lar meet­ings, but FFAW-Uni­for is also “try­ing to up our game at that.”

Decker said the union has com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the avail­abil­ity and com­mu­ni­ca­tion of in­for­ma­tion for mem­bers, with in­creas­ing use of email, so­cial me­dia and the union web­site.

As for the pos­si­bil­ity FISH-NL might get its vote, the FFAW-Uni­for rep said he doesn’t see it hap­pen­ing and the union - like ev­ery­one else - is wait­ing on the re­sults from the Labour Re­la­tions Board.

“I just can only hope it is a speedy process,” he said.

There are clearly in­ci­dents of fraud­u­lent and tainted cards that we will be pre­sent­ing (as) ev­i­dence be­fore the board. David Decker


Ryan Cleary, pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Sea Har­vesters of New­found­land and Labrador (FISH-NL), heads into the prov­ince’s Labour Board of­fices at Cros­bie Place on Dec. 29 with a crate­ful of FISH-NL union cards signed by fish­er­men from across the prov­ince.

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