The ice is still in, and money’s tight

Province, union still look­ing for fed­eral help for some fish­eries work­ers

The Compass - - Sports - BY ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK afitz­patrick@thetele­

Ice off the northeast coast of New­found­land has left some fish har­vesters and plant work­ers in a fi­nan­cial pinch, with the province and FFAW-Uni­for look­ing to Ot­tawa for help.

Plenty of boats are still tied up to avoid heavy ice. De­layed land­ings in parts of the province means de­layed har­vester and pro­ces­sor in­comes, while em­ploy­ment in­surance (EI) ben­e­fits have their lim­its.

“There’s too much ice,” said Glen New­bury, the owner and cap­tain of the Dou­ble N, out of Green Bay, still im­peded by the icy con­di­tions. “The ice is on the shore­line, but it stretches off into our crab ground, so if you could get off you still can’t fish, or very lim­ited amount.”

Speak­ing to The Tele­gram last Wed­nes­day, he said he put in his EI claim late last year and has his sea­sonal sup­port un­til late in May as a re­sult. But some of his crew and col­leagues have ei­ther run out of ben­e­fits or will within days, he said, leav­ing them gen­er­ally with­out in­come un­til they can go fish­ing.

The ice will ease off, he said, but right now Mother Na­ture is at the helm and the clock is tick­ing.

Crab makes up about 70 per cent of New­bury’s in­come for the year. He and his crew have ben­e­fit­ted gen­er­ally from crab prices stay­ing high for the mo­ment and, luck­ily for them, no hit in quota. He said he has con­cerns about po­ten­tial changes to caplin quo­tas, but also re­ally wants to get some crab ashore.

And he’d be happy if he could run his boat home.

“We were out seal­ing and we were in Catalina. Our boat is in Catalina and we can’t even get the boat back home. There’s no ports free of ice … so we’ve got like 140-, 150-mile steam along the coast­line to get back to our home port and it don’t look too good for the next week or so to even get back home,” he said.

At the back of his mind is an un­der­stand­ing of what can hap­pen if the ice fore­casts don’t go your way. In 2014, New­bury and his crew had to be res­cued by the Cana­dian Coast Guard. Their boat was left, trapped in ice, with an ice­berg bear­ing down and an ex­pec­ta­tion the ves­sel would be crushed. The Dou­ble N sur­vived in the end. It was spot­ted three days later and was steamed into har­bour by an­other fish­er­man.

“For­tu­nately, we didn’t have too much dam­age. That was The union sent its let­ter on Mon­day, May 1, ask­ing the feds again to con­firm fi­nan­cial sup­port for fish har­vesters and plant work­ers.

like win­ning the lot­tery there,” New­bury said.

Apart from fish har­vesters, some plant work­ers are be­ing af­fected by the cur­rent con­di­tions, ac­cord­ing to the Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW-Uni­for), with less crab com­ing in to process.

On April 21, a news re­lease from the pro­vin­cial govern­ment stated Fish­eries Min­is­ter Steve Crocker wrote to the Govern­ment of Canada to ask for fi­nan­cial help for the af­fected har­vesters and plant work­ers, not lim­it­ing the con­cern to crab.

The let­ter was sent to Em­ploy­ment, Work­force De­vel­op­ment and Labour Min­is­ter Pa­tri­cia Ha­jdu; Fam­i­lies, Chil­dren and So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Du­c­los; and Fish­eries Min­is­ter Do­minic Le­Blanc. Crocker asked for the ex­ten­sion of EI ben­e­fits for af­fected fish­eries work­ers, or equiv­a­lent sup­port.

There have since been fol­lowup con­ver­sa­tions.

As­sis­tance from Ot­tawa of the type re­quested was also asked for by the FFAW-Uni­for in April and has been of­fered in the past. In its own news re­lease on April 19, the union noted pro­grams in 2007, 1990 and 1974, and warned of the hard­ship ex­pected this year.

The union sent its let­ter on Mon­day, May 1, ask­ing the feds again to con­firm fi­nan­cial sup­port for fish har­vesters and plant work­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by Em­ploy­ment and So­cial De­vel­op­ment Canada, the first step in 2007 was for the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans to de­ter­mine the ice was in­deed a bar­rier to fish­ing and spe­cial as­sis­tance was war­ranted.

Money pro­vided in 2007 was is­sued by the fed­eral Depart­ment of Hu­man Re­sources and So­cial De­vel­op­ment Canada (what is now Em­ploy­ment and So­cial De­vel­op­ment Canada), but on be­half of DFO. And it was not an ex­ten­sion of EI ben­e­fits.

“If DFO de­cides that the (cur­rent) sit­u­a­tion re­quires such a pro­gram, Em­ploy­ment and So­cial De­vel­op­ment Canada would be able to help the same way it did back in 2007,” The Tele­gram was told via email.


The ice­breaker CCGS Terry Fox ar­rives in St. John’s har­bour Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, while crab fish­er­men headed in and out in their boats. Crab ves­sels have been mov­ing at the cap­i­tal, while most boats on the is­land’s northeast and north-cen­tral coasts con­tinue to be held back from the fish­ery by heavy ice.

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