In ‘for the long haul’

OCI warns of le­gal ac­tion as pro­test­ers set up picket at com­pany HQ

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANIEL MACEACH­ERN

As the sun set on the first day of locked-out trawler­men’s protest at Ocean Choice In­ter­na­tional’s (OCI) Par­adise head­quar­ters, the com­pany’s CEO said he ex­pects the courts to re­move pro­test­ers from the park­ing lot.

About 20 dis­grun­tled work­ers, locked in a labour dis­pute with the fish­ing com­pany, set up a picket in OCI’S park­ing lot Thurs­day morn­ing. The work­ers had been protest­ing in Bay Roberts against the com­pany’s plan to use re­place­ment work­ers on the deepsea trawler ‘ New­found­land Lynx’.

The ves­sel’s reg­u­lar crew con­sists of a num­ber of res­i­dents from through­out the Burin Penin­sula.

The ‘ Lynx’ set sail with a re­place­ment crew early Thurs­day morn­ing, af­ter RCMP of­fi­cers es­corted the work­ers aboard. Some of the pick­ets - mem­bers of the Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW) union - were ar­rested for at­tempt­ing to block work­ers from get­ting on, but were later let go with­out be­ing charged.

Ocean Choice CEO Martin Sul­li­van, in a news con­fer­ence in the com­pany’s board­room, said the protest is an un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion and blamed the labour dis­pute on union man­age­ment.

“We cer­tainly sym­pa­thize with the work­ers. We don’t think there’s any need to be in this po­si­tion.

“We were get­ting very close to an agree­ment just be­fore Christ­mas, ne­go­ti­at­ing a con­tract. Af­ter Christ­mas, ev­ery­thing went side­ways when they came back with a 160 per cent in­crease in the price of fish, so we think there’s a larger agenda of the FFAW. They’ve threat­ened us in this board­room to shut us down, to bring us to our eco­nomic knees if we close Marys­town. Our view is that they’re ba­si­cally car­ry­ing for­ward with that agenda.”

As driv­ers on Top­sail Road honked their horns as they passed the protest, the FFAW’S in­dus­trial di­rec­tor, Greg Pretty, said Thurs­day morn­ing at the protest that the ar­rests and use of re­place­ment work­ers make it clear that New­found­land and Labrador is a “scab prov­ince.”

“The real is­sue here is the me­dieval labour laws that al­lowed the po­lice to es­cort peo­ple who are tak­ing jobs from the crew mem­bers.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble that in 2012 you can have a le­gal strike and yet they can lose their jobs to scab work­ers. This prov­ince is a scab prov­ince, and that needs to change.”

Worker Gary Fisher and his wife Beryl were among those ar­rested early Thurs­day morn­ing in Bay Roberts.

Mrs. Fisher ex­plained how the al­ter­ca­tion with po­lice went down.

“We stood our ground and they got three RCMP of­fi­cers’ cars in, and we had to move to let them in, so we let them in.”

Shortly af­ter, around 2 a.m., she in­di­cated a bus car­ry­ing re­place­ment work­ers ar­rived, and the strik­ing work­ers re­fused to move.

“There was no vi­o­lence. Ev­ery­body was good on both sides.”

It was about 4:30 a.m., af­ter what Mrs. Fisher called a “small skir­mish,” that the riot squad got in po­si­tion.

“We were told if we didn’t move, we were go­ing to be ar­rested. So they started mov­ing for­ward, mov­ing for­ward ... they started to ar­rest. They had three or four gone, and my hus­band was there, they ar­rested him. I was next to go.” In all, the po­lice ar­rested 23 peo­ple. “Af­ter they ar­rested so many, they just hauled the bus up, kept us all back, and the boys got off the bus and lit­er­ally ran to the boat.”

David Decker, the union’s sec­re­tary­trea­surer, said the protest would be on Ocean Choice’s doorstep “for the long haul.”

“This is dif­fer­ent for this group of work­ers in that their work­place is a ship. It’s a float­ing plat­form, and ob­vi­ously to­day, with the help of the RCMP, they got the scabs across the picket line and their work­place sailed away. It prob­a­bly won’t be back for the next week or so.”

Mr. Sul­li­van, though, said he ex­pected prop­erty owner Pen­necon to take le­gal ac­tion to move the pro­test­ers off the prop­erty, as hap­pened in Bay Roberts and ear­lier for a picket in front of the com­pany’s shut­tered fish plant in Marys­town.

“We have to en­force our right to con­duct our busi­ness. The prop­erty owner here - we’re not the prop­erty owner - have given a tres­pass no­tice to the work­ers to­day. If the tres­pass con­tin­ues, I guess they’ll have to go for­ward to try to get an in­junc­tion.

“We have to be al­lowed to con­duct our busi­ness. That’s all we want to do.”

The pick­eters were handed un­signed pieces of pa­per Thurs­day, warn­ing them that any unau­tho­rized ac­cess to the prop­erty was con­sid­ered tres­pass­ing, but Mr. Decker said they weren’t mov­ing.

“We have a right to protest here. I don’t know where we’re sup­posed to move, out into the mid­dle of the street? Clearly, they want these peo­ple to go away. They do not want the faces of these peo­ple seen by the public. That’s why they came un­der cover of dark­ness last night.”

Mr. Pretty snorted when he was told Mr. Sul­li­van ex­pects to have the pro­test­ers re­moved.

“That’s typ­i­cal horse­shit from Martin Sul­li­van. The fact of the mat­ter is,” he said, ges­tur­ing at the Ocean Choice of­fice, “that’s Ocean Choice In­ter­na­tional’s of­fice right there. That’s their main of­fice for New­found­land. Our con­tract is with Ocean Choice.

“... When we strike Ocean Choice, we’re go­ing to their of­fice. And I’m happy to re­port we’re here.”

Mean­while, work­ers waved at pass­ing ve­hi­cles and held signs that read: “We Did Time For Our Jobs” and “Scabs Ap­ply At OCI.”

Mrs. Fisher said she was en­cour­aged by the honks of sup­port from pass­ing mo­torists.

“Peo­ple need to know that we’re here, and this is not right, what they’re do­ing. This is def­i­nitely not right.”

Gary Heb­bard Photo/the Tele­gram

Once they were re­leased from jail Thurs­day, sev­eral trawler­men em­ployed with Ocean Choice In­ter­na­tional (OCI) on the ‘New­found­land Lynx’ moved their protest near the com­pany’s head­quar­ters in Par­adise. Af­ter lock­ing out the crew last week over a...

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