Nfld. & Labrador

Ferry fight continues — this time with protesters on Fogo Island

Three ferries, with two of them tied up, mean a lot of frustrated people.

'It worked in Bell Island — they got their schedule changed'

The MV Legionnaire and the Beaumont Hamel are tied up next to each other, because protesters on Fogo Island want an improved schedule before they let the Beaumont Hamel travel to Bell Island. (Submitted by Kristine Howse)

Protesters on Fogo Island are refusing to let the Beaumont Hamel make its way to Bell Island as part of the agreed upon ferry swap.

"They say they're in there for the long haul," says Eugene Nippard, who is a citizen's representative on Fogo Island's Transportation Committee, although he said he was not speaking on that group's behalf.

"We've been treated as second class and that's not fair."

After several days of protests by Bell Island ferry users, all sides agreed to a solution: the Legionnaire would service the Fogo Island-Change Islands route, while the MV Beaumont Hamel and Flanders will service Bell Island.

But Nippard said the goodwill didn't last long as ferry users on Fogo Island are calling for their scheduling issues to be resolved.

"We presented a schedule to management and they came back with one that was 95 per cent different," he said. 

Nippard said government has said they won't implement the requested schedule "because it's a different contract for the workers on the Legionnaire than it is on the Veteran … It's a money issue."

'We got to fight back'

Due to the protests, the Department of Transportation will not allow the Legionnaire to sail until protesters let the Beaumont Hamel make its way to Bell Island, according to Nippard.

Bell Island protesters, seen here on Nov. 6, did not want the Legionnaire to service Fogo Island. An agreement had been reached, but now protesters on Fogo Island are angry about their proposed Legionnaire schedule. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

But a quick fix might not be in the works, he warned.

"We're just trying to prove a point, trying to keep the Beaumont Hamel and hopefully force the government to act as soon as possible, which they haven't been doing," he said.

"People don't want to take anymore and they says, 'Well, we got to fight back.' It worked in Bell Island — they got their schedule changed."

'These are intra-provincial systems'

As for government, Transportation Minister Steve Crocker is asking the demonstrators to be reasonable, and said the province's ferries are "owned by the taxpayers of the province."

"I think it's also important that people realize these are intra-provincial systems," he told reporters Thursday afternoon. "And no different than we would not impede people's ability to travel or commute on highways, these are highways."

People don't want to take anymore.- Eugene Nippard

Crocker said when it comes to setting the schedules, the collective agreement between the province and workers on the Legionnaire follows the boat wherever it goes — and that's what determines the start and stop times for the vessel each day.

Some protesters have been asking for later sailing times, as well as a fixed, year-round schedule.

Crocker said the provincial government will work with the demonstrators to see what flexibility exists to meet their requests.

Transportation Minster Steve Crocker said the government would look at all options to resolve the ferry blockade. (CBC)

But he also added that the government was "committed" to having two vessels on the Bell Island run, implying the Department of Transportation might move the Legionnaire back to Bell Island.

"This is very early on, but again, we've been clear on our commitments."

With files from Central Morning Show