Nfld. & Labrador

FISH-NL says it will fold by end of the month unless it raises $150K

The upstart fish harvesters' union says it needs 500 new members to each pay $288 a year.

Upstart fish harvesters' union says this is its final appeal

FISH-NL and president Ryan Cleary are making one last appeal for funds from fish harvesters. (Todd O'BrienCBC)

Fight or fold.

FISH-NL, the upstart union that has been fighting to represent fish harvesters for the last three years, says this is the final time it will appeal to people working in the industry for money to keep operating.

The organization says if it can't raise $150,000 by the end of April, it will fold.

During a news conference at FISH-NL's St. John's office, president Ryan Cleary pleaded with inshore fish harvesters to contribute $288 a year each.

"I'm speaking directly to inshore harvesters, to their families and the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. FISH-NL can do this with you, we can't do it for you," Cleary said.

"The FISH-NL executive is not prepared to lead a second membership drive that's guaranteed to fail and it will fail without the support of inshore harvesters." 

2nd membership drive needed

A second membership drive is needed if the union hopes to unseat the current union — FFAW-Unifor — from representing harvesters.

FISH-NL's first membership drive in the fall of 2016 saw 2,372 harvesters. The effort fell far short of the 40 per cent plus one of the nearly 10,000 fishers that the Labour Relations Board has recognized as FAW members.

FISH-NL can do this with you, we can't do it for you.- Ryan Cleary

The board later rejected the bid for a certification vote.

Cleary believes the criteria for qualifying as a fish harvester includes far too many people with just a passing relationship with the fishery.

Under the current rules, FISH-NL said it would try and recruit 5,000 harvesters.

"The definition of a harvester in 2019 is anyone who pays dues to the FFAW. That's it," Cleary said. 

"Going by those numbers that the Labour Relations Board has ridiculously accepted, we know we have to get the 5,000 mark."

Not all contributions came through

During an earlier appeal for funding, FISH-NL said 540 people agreed to contribute $288 dollars. Just over 300 harvesters actually followed through with contributions.

A tub's worth of crab is all that's required to support FISH-NL, says vice-president Peter Leonard (Todd O'Brien/CBC)

FISH-NL says to finance a second membership drive that could lead to a certification vote, 500 additional harvesters will have to start paying dues.

The money is needed to pay for a campaign manager and someone to identify the vote, among other things.

"I'm not going begging and I'm not going panhandling to makeFISH-NL work."- Peter Leonard, Vice President

FISH-NL vice-president Peter Leonard believes there is wide support across the province.

"This will be the last time I will be here, asking you for money. I'm not going begging and I'm not going panhandling to make FISH-NL work."

Leonard banged a crab tub on the table saying, "This is what we need from you."

One tub, or 54 pounds of snow crab, would cover membership costs.

"If you're not willing to give it, call us up and tell us because we can't do any more than we're doing."

If FISH-NL achieves its funding goal, they will start a recruitment campaign Aug. 1 with a new application expected to be submitted to the Labour Relations Board on Nov. 1.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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