Membership Drive: FISH-NL launches province-wide tour

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, Sept. 9th, 2019

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) began the second wave of its membership drive this morning with the launch of a province-wide tour.

“We’ll be going from wharf to wharf and stage to stage so harvesters can finally break free of the FFAW-Unifor — and the inshore fishery can start moving forward,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL.

The first wave of FISH-NL’s drive began on Aug. 12th when thousands of membership cards began circulating around the province — including to more than 170 card captains. The second wave — which will begin on the Great Northern Peninsula — is to speak directly to harvesters, and to collect their cards.

The membership drive will conclude on Nov. 8th when FISH-NL will submit the membership cards as part of an application for certification to the province’s Labour Relations Board.

The membership drive is required by provincial labour legislation to trigger a secret-ballot vote for harvesters to choose their union representation. To trigger a vote, at least 40 per cent of harvesters must sign FISH-NL membership cards, which can be signed no more than 90 days prior to the submission of the application.

“The FFAW has been in full panic mode since FISH-NL announced our second drive,” says Peter Leonard, Vice-President of FISH-NL, and an inshore harvester from Southern Harbour.

“But no matter what FFAW throws on the table over the next two months it won’t change the fact one union cannot represent the entire fishery — certainly not one that’s in a conflict of interest with oil companies, the federal government, and its own members.”

To be eligible to sign a FISH-NL card, a person must have a fish sale in their name during 2018 or 2019, with union dues collected and remitted by a fish processor/buyer. A harvester can also have an up-to-date registration with the Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board.

FISH-NL’s first battle is to free harvesters from the FFAW stranglehold. The second fight will be to end mismanagement of our fisheries, and secure harvesters and the rural communities where they live with a prosperous future as the primary beneficiary of adjacent stocks.

Contact: Ryan Cleary 682 4862


• In September, 2018 — 21 months after the FISH-NL’s first application was submitted — the province’s Labour Relations Board dismissed it.

The Board ruled that the 2,372 membership cards submitted with FISH-NL’s first application did not represent at least 40 per cent of the overall number of harvesters, the amount required to trigger a vote.

The FFAW has claimed there are roughly 10,000 harvesters in its bargaining unit. According to the FFAW-run Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board, there were 9,080 apprentice, Level 1, and Level II harvesters registered in the province in 2018. However, a percentage of those certified harvesters work offshore on factory-freezer trawlers.

• The FFAW/Unifor represents most unionized workers in the commercial fishery — including inshore harvesters, plant workers, and workers on offshore factory-freezer trawlers — which has been seen as a conflict of interest from Day 1.

• The FFAW also represents workers in 20 other bargaining units, from hotel and oil tanker workers to metal fabricators and brewery workers. The FFAW represents some workers — including those in the aquaculture industry — whose interests are in direct conflict with those of inshore harvesters.

• While the FFAW is tasked with holding Fisheries and Oceans Canada to account for fisheries management, the union receives millions of dollars a year in federal contracts.

• The FFAW refuses to reveal the amount of funding it receives directly and indirectly from oil companies whose exploration and drilling activities off Newfoundland and Labrador are negatively impacting commercial fisheries.

FISH-NL is managed by a five-member executive serving two-year terms and elected directly by inshore harvesters. The executive includes: Ryan Cleary (President), Peter Leonard (Vice-President), Jason Sullivan (Secretary-Treasurer), Keith Boland (Captain Under 40), and Boyd Lavers (Captain Over 40).