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FFAW Calls for Drastic Changes to Provincial Processing Licensing Amid Harvester Protests in St. John's

March 14, 2024

March 14, 2024

FFAW-Unifor is calling on the provincial government to listen to protesting fish harvesters by lifting all processing caps in the province, grant new processing licenses, and remove restrictions on outside buyers. The FFAW is also looking for a commitment from the provincial government to undertake an independent review of the province’s processing licensing policy.

“Fish harvesters in our province have been disadvantaged long enough. The situation has gotten so severe in recent years that a very large number are now facing imminent bankruptcy due to the cartel-like environment processing companies enjoy here in Newfoundland and Labrador,” explains Greg Pretty, FFAW-Unifor. “When fish harvesters cannot find a buyer for their catch – we have a serious problem. This province cannot have a thriving fishery if fish harvesters are not succeeding, and the current wall of opposition they face makes success unattainable,” Pretty says.

“In recent years, fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador have been faced with strict weekly limits, unfounded deductions, plants that chose not process certain species, and others who refused to purchase from certain harvesters. All of which amounts to a very toxic business relationship for both harvesters and plant workers,” says lead protestor, John Efford. “More competition and market access for harvesters is needed. We want free enterprise,” Efford says.

“The business environment in our province is anti-harvester – plain and simple,” says FFAW-Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Jason Spingle. “There is no accountability for processing companies. People are losing their enterprises, and our Union will not just stand by and watch that happen,” Spingle says.

While thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians benefit from seasonal processing work, the bulk of companies brought in Temporary Foreign Workers rather than focus on improving work for those who live in the province.

“Every single processing job in this province is important. Our entire province benefits the most when the work stays here. Unfortunately, the privilege bestowed on processing companies is being abused, existing licenses are underutilized, and we do not have the capacity needed to process what is being brought in each season. The system must change if we have any hope of a future for the owner-operator fishery in our province,” Pretty concludes.