New Fishermen’s Labour Group Continues to Hammer Away at FFAW

David is continuing to get under the skin of Goliath.

The newly-formed Federation of Independent Seafood Harvesters or FISH-NL continues to gauge interest in a new union that would represent Newfoundland and Labrador fish harvesters, breaking away from the long-standing Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW).

The charge is being lead by former Member of Parliament, Ryan Cleary, and well-known fishermen, Richard Gillett of Twillingate and Jason Sullivan, a harvester and town councillor from Bay Bulls.

FISH-NL recently held meetings in Corner Brook and Clarenville, bringing together hundreds of fishermen disgruntled with the FFAW, while drumming up support for the fledgling organization.

With the meetings labelled a success by Cleary and the organizers, FISH-NL announced it has planned its inaugural convention and election of officers for Oct. 27 in Gander — followed by a union card-signing drive to take place in November and December.

The former MP also continued to hammer away at the leadership of the FFAW.

Cleary recently announced he would walk away from his movement if the FFAW will allow an independent audit of its finances.

“I will walk away from FISH-NL, I will walk away from this movement, period, if the FFAW agrees to allow a third party to go in and do a forensic audit of the FFAW, all government money going in, all fees that fish harvesters pay in,” he told the media.

The FFAW responded with a statement saying Cleary’s challenge is irrelevant, because the union is already audited by an independent firm.

“Ryan Cleary is asking us to do something we already do,” the statement read.

“In addition, our audited statements are reviewed and adopted by our membership at conventions.”

FISH-NL also recently raised the ire of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).

In a letter to Cleary, CLC President Hassan Yussuff called FISH-NL’s actions to “raid” the FFAW opportunistic and divisive.

“The nature of raids leads to the type of angry and divisive behaviours we are now witnessing,” Yussuff said.

Yussuff’s letter was in response to an earlier request from Cleary for the CLC to investigate the FFAW.

But Yussuff said the CLC will not launch any investigation “at your request.”

Cleary has said the new union would represent the province’s fish harvesters only — excluding plant workers and trawlermen, because all three groups of workers currently fall under the FFAW umbrella, a set up that’s long been seen as a conflict of interest.

“The FFAW’s ability to hold the Government of Canada to account in terms of day-to-day management decisions and overall policy direction has also been questioned when it’s in receipt of untold millions of dollars from various federal government sources.”

In order to create a breakaway union, Cleary and his supporters will need to get 50 per cent plus one fish harvester in the province to sign union cards supporting the new entity. He noted that his group is currently trying to determine the names of the more than 10,000 unionized fish harvesters in the province.

Kerry Hann

Managing Editor of The Navigator Magazine.

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