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FFAW Meets with Federal Liberal Caucus

February 27, 2024

The federal Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Caucus met with representatives of FFAW-Unifor on Friday to discuss pressing issues facing working people in Newfoundland and Labrador. Attending the meeting in person for the Liberal Caucus were Joanne Thompson, Gudie Hutchings and Churrence Rogers, and online were Yvonne Jones and Seamus O’Regan. Representing the FFAW were Greg Pretty, President, Jason Spingle, Secretary-Treasurer, Nelson Bussey, Executive Board, Barry Randall, IRO Council, Peter Winsor, IRO Council, Courtney Glode, Director of Public Affairs, James Farrell, Member Representative, Allan Moulton, Member Representative, and Courtney Langille, Communications and Government Relations.

The Union presented 3 pressing issues for discussion: (1) EI crisis facing seasonal workers, (2) redfish allocations, and (3) the subsequent threat to northern cod management.

FFAW-Unifor proposed changes to the EI divisor calculation to provide more financially stability and predictability for seasonal workers (and prevent a repeat of 2023); including having the divisor calculated based on the start date of work for labour claims and the average of the past 12 months for fishing claims. MPs told the Union it was unlikely any legislative changes would be reviewed this year.

“As it currently stands, we could have upwards of 3000 or more seasonal workers in our province running out of EI 5 to 8 weeks before their next fishing season begins. Despite telling us help was coming last fall, the federal government provided an EI extension to only a fraction of affected workers, and households are still down up to $800 a month,” FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty explains. “The Union was told to go to the province for financial assistance for working facing poverty in the coming weeks, and that no additional help would be coming federally,” he says.

“We reemphasized the federal failure with redfish allocations, and while we are doubtful any changes will now be made to the allocation key, there is room to increase quotas overall and give the Gulf fleet a fighting chance for survival,” says FFAAW-Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Jason Spingle. “We’re hopeful that some movement can be made on that end,” Spingle says.

“Cod is Newfoundland and Labrador’s most culturally significant species – and the 115,000 metric ton commitment to the inshore is recorded throughout history beginning in the 70s,” says Pretty. “The same redfish fiasco cannot happen with northern cod – our members will not sit idly by and watch that happen.”

“There’s a very clear disconnect between working people and those who are elected to represent them, and voting people should pay close attention. But we have a very strong message from the elected leadership of the Union on how these MPs should be representing us in Ottawa. Our MPs must ensure the corporate transfer of public resources that happened with redfish does not happen with northern cod. Both sectors of our Union are looking forward to a new cod fishery, but those hopes and dreams will be destroyed if our federal government allows these companies to have their way with our adjacent resources,” Pretty concludes.