Nfld. & Labrador

2,372 names not enough to certify rival union, says FFAW

The Fish, Food and Allied Workers says numbers released Monday by its rival, FISH-NL, are not enough for the group to be certified.

FFAW says it also believes some membership cards are 'fraudulent and tainted'

Ryan Cleary is doing the math differently than the FFAW, and still insists he has the numbers to leverage a vote by the province's Labour Relations Board. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union says a rival group that's angling to represent inshore fish harvesters does not have the numbers it needs to be certified.

"The numbers are now public and it is clear FISH-NL does not have adequate support," said FFAW president Keith Sullivan in a news release Monday afternoon.

The Federation of Independent Seafood Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) said earlier in the day that 2,372 harvesters from more than 300 communities have signed its cards.

"From all indications that number represents well over 50 per cent of all inshore fish harvesters," said FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary.

But the number falls far short of half the 10,200 active, dues-paying inshore harvesters who are members of the FFAW. The number registered with the Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board is slightly higher, at 10,995. 

FISH-NL numbers "misrepresent the industry and discount the many good jobs that exist in the fishery," said Sullivan in his release.

Both sides are alleging problems with the signing of membership cards, with accusations of intimidation from one side and fraud from the other. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

He also said the FFAW will be raising concerns to the provincial Labour Relations Board "related to fraudulent and tainted cards and the manner by which signatures were obtained."

FISH-NL counter-claims it has heard from harvesters who say they've been "threatened and intimidated" against signing cards — a claim the FFAW denies — and that other fishers tied to processors through financial arrangements have also been advised not to sign.

FISH-NL math using harvesters drawing EI

Ryan Cleary, meanwhile, explained his math in an interview with CBC News on Monday. 

He said a federal Access to Information Act request revealed 6,354 harvesters received employment insurance in February 2015, the highest total in any month of that year. He said that's a better indicator of the "real list of bonafide inshore harvesters" in the province.

"And from that list you have to deduct the number of offshore trawlermen," he said. "Nobody believes the FFAW, so that's why we went to ATIP and filed this request."

Cleary said previously that FISH-NL would need 40 per cent support to trigger a certification vote, and that threshold was a reduction of the union's previous target of 50 per cent.

Now that the application has been filed, Cleary said the FFAW has 10 days to respond, then FISH-NL will have another five days to rebut.

The Labour Relations Board will then do its own investigation, including a review of all cards, a process that could take weeks or months.

The board could dismiss the application, order a public hearing or call a vote.

FISH-NL expects to be fundraising again for that stage of the process.

"You're talking about a lot of money," said Cleary. "We need fish harvesters to step up."

With files from Peter Cowan

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