Ocean Choice em­ploy­ees rat­ify new col­lec­tive agree­ment

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BY PAUL HERRIDGE

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.”

Al­lan Moul­ton

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