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Federal Support Desperately Needed for Harvesters

May 3, 2020

Fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador are in desperate need of federal support as lobster and crab fisheries open around the province. FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan is calling on the federal government to take immediate action to support the nearly ten thousand harvesters affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday’s unjustified decision from the Price Setting Panel chose the ASP price of $2.90 per pound for snow crab, a rock bottom price that is leaving enterprise owners and crew members wondering if they will be able to cover expenses and support their families in the coming months and once the 2020 fishing season ends. Even with the minimum price and Urner Barry formula protected for lobster, that fishery as well as others like shrimp will also require government support.

Harvesters have not been eligible for any other recently announced federal support programs to support businesses and other sectors. As a result of this, FFAW-Unifor submitted an Economic Support Proposal on April 24 yet to date there has been no support provided for harvesters while millions in funding and wage subsidies are being handed to processing companies.

It’s imperative that action be taken immediately by the federal government to protect the inshore fishery and the coastal communities that rely on it. Key support measures requested in the proposal include extended EI benefits, waive and/or reimburse all fees for 2020 (i.e. licensing fees, vessel registration fees, IQ fees, etc.), a wage subsidy program, and extended interest-free loan deferral programs.

Meetings will be held with union leadership around the province this week as well as with the federal representatives who must advocate on behalf of harvesters in our province.

All fish harvesters must call and write their Member of Parliament to express the urgency of these federal supports. Enterprise owners are at risk of bankruptcy and harvesters are concerned they will not qualify for employment insurance through the winter months. Action must be taken now.