Ocean Choice employees ratify new collective agreement
Employees at six Ocean Choice International (OCI) fish plants in the province cast their ballots late last week overwhelmingly in favour of ratifying a new twoyear collective agreement with the company.
Workers in Marystown, Bonavista, Dildo, Port au Choix, Port Union and Triton voted 88 per cent overall in favour of accepting a deal that will see a 25 cent an hour increase in their base pay to $13.45 next January.
The agreement is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, which means the agreement will expire at the end of 2011.
The FFAW’s Industrial/Retail/Offshore Division vice-president Allan Moulton noted “Of course, that’s the base rate, so there is higher rates in the agreement than that.”
Mr. Moulton, also FFAW Marystown local president, said the union understood it couldn’t negotiate the type of increase workers deserved because of the situation facing the industry. Among the issues are a high Canadian dollar, fuel costs and stiff overseas competition.
“ The company came to the table with a lot of huge concessions on overtime, vacation pay and other issues that would have really stripped out a lot of the collective agreement and would have took a lot of dollars out of the pockets of workers.
“So, we’re more than pleased we got the agreement done with no concessions and we managed a marginal increase in wages.”
He admitted the union didn’t see the other option – a strike – as a responsible reaction even though employees had given a 93 per cent mandate earlier this month.
Mr. Moulton indicated he felt the strike mandate vote illustrated workers were serious, and called it the turning point in the negotiation process.
“ Workers had made their minds up and told us in no uncertain terms that they were not prepared to see their collective agreement continue to be stripped.
“I think that’s what got the agreement where it was to today.”
He acknowledged the union was originally looking for a 45 cent an hour increase in wages on a one-year collective agreement. He said a one-year deal didn’t appear to be in the cards, and the union didn’t want to go beyond two.
“ There was an effort put into trying to reach a three-year deal, but the money just wasn’t there to do that.”
Mr. Moulton said the union is hopeful by the end of the new agreement some of the industry’s issues will be resolved.
“Hopefully, the next time we get back to the table we’ll be in a better position to bargain a better wage for workers, because they clearly deserve a better wage for the type of work they do in this industry.”