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Number of N.L. inshore harvesters still not settled with release of labour board list

FFAW president Keith Sullivan (left) and FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary.
FFAW president Keith Sullivan (left) and FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary.

The province’s Labour Relations Board has come up with its own figure for the number of inshore fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador, but apparently it’s far from definitive.

As part of the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador’s (FISH-NL) certification application, the labour board has produced a list that includes the names of 6,371 fish harvesters.

In a news release Thursday, FISH-NL said it viewed the list’s release as progress.

“It’s been almost 10 months since FISH-NL submitted our application for certification, so a list of inshore harvesters from the board is a huge and welcome step forward,” said FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary.

FISH-NL is seeking to break union representation for inshore harvesters away from the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor) union.

FFAW-Unifor has claimed it has 10,200 active, dues-paying members.

The number is important because FISH-NL needs the support of 40 per cent of inshore harvesters to trigger a vote to decide which union will represent them.

FISH-NL’s application for certification last December included membership cards signed by 2,372 inshore harvesters.

“While FISH-NL has only had a cursory look at the board’s list, we know that some fishermen are included who have passed away, others no longer fish, and still more work full-time in other industries,” said Cleary.

Meanwhile, FFAW-Unifor said Thursday it remains confident in the accuracy of its inshore membership numbers.

“A list recently provided by the board to both FFAW and FISH-NL is not a complete list of fish harvesters, nor was it portrayed as such by the board,” FFAW-Unifor president Keith Sullivan said in a statement.

“In fact, in our review of the list we have found that several thousand active, commercial fish harvesters are not listed.”

Sullivan said FFAW-Unifor is following the Labour Relations Board process to verify its membership.

“This is simply another desperate attempt by Ryan Cleary and FISH-NL to exaggerate and spin a step in the board’s process in an effort to legitimize FISH-NL’s fledgling campaign to obtain a membership vote without having met the requirements set by legislation,” Sullivan said.

“Unlike FISH-NL, FFAW has respect for the Labour Relations Board and its processes. Cleary’s sideshows do a disservice to the industry and only distract from the serious work to be done for our members.”

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