The Telegram (St. John's)

Bad bargaining


To an outsider, it sure doesn’t sound like good faith negotiatio­ns between two parties to reach a fair price.

And that’s unfortunat­e, because the price that’s in play is for one of the most valuable resources in this province’s fishery.

Tuesday, the Fisheries, Food and Allied Workers Union issued a short statement about ongoing snow crab price negotiatio­ns.

“After weeks of the Associatio­n of Seafood Producers (ASP) stalling and disrespect­ing fish harvesters, FFAW attempted to continue with price negotiatio­ns today on snow crab. FFAW submitted a price offer today of $4.25 per pound plus a market return formula in addition to the minimum price. Appallingl­y, ASP offered $0.01 cent per pound to snow crab harvesters in Newfoundla­nd and Labrador. FFAW is moving to the Price Setting Panel this week where ASP will be forced to provide a reasonable offer as the panel will have to choose between either FFAW’S or ASP’S final offers.”

Derek Butler, executive director of the ASP, confirmed that price offer in an email that also raised concerns about the FFAW delaying the crab fishery unnecessar­ily.

“In addition to the below, ASP has today made an initial offer of $0.01 per lb for snow crab. This is the standard initial offer we have made every year, to meet legislativ­e requiremen­ts to maintain access to the Price Arbitratio­n Panel. It is a technicali­ty, and the FFAW knows that. It is indicative of the deteriorat­ing relationsh­ip between the parties that they would make this the subject of an update on their website.”

If both those positions are correct, the message is pretty simple.

On one side, if the one cent per pound price is, in fact, part of negotiatio­ns every year, why make public hay about it now?

And on the other side, why offer a price you don’t intend to be taken seriously — instead of one you do — simply to activate part of the provincial government’s legislativ­e structure for price-setting?

Obviously, both sides want to reach a price that would benefit their own membership the most; that makes the process necessaril­y combative.

But the upshot in this case is that collective bargaining doesn’t seem to be working effectivel­y. The Price Setting Panel is supposed to make a decision on price when bargaining doesn’t work.

The panel came about after a recommenda­tion in the 2005 Cashin Report — the purpose was to make a court of last resort to set prices before delays cost everyone crucial portions of the fishing season.

Instead of being a last step, it now looks like it’s effectivel­y the first, last and only step that matters, and everything else is simply posturing by one side or the other.

That’s unfortunat­e, when the livelihood­s of so many fishers, plant workers and yes, even plant operators hang in the balance.

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