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FFAW-Unifor Meet With Minister Davis as House of Assembly Reopens

March 6, 2024

This week, FFAW-Unifor met with Minister Bernard Davis to discuss several concerns on behalf of members as the House of Assembly reopens. In attendance with Minister Davis from his department were Valerie Snow, Deputy Minister; Yvonne Scott, Assistant Deputy Minister; Matt Babb, Ministerial Liaison; and Randy Simms, Executive Assistant to the Minister. Attending from the FFAW were Greg Pretty, President; James Farrell, Solicitor and Member Representative; Katie Power, Industry Relations Representative; and Courtney Langille, Government Relations.

At the top of the agenda was labour management concerns at St. Anthony Seafoods. James Farrell gave detailed background on the plant since operators changed in 2021 which has led to excessive hours of work by employees over consecutive days that goes beyond what is safe, in addition to a general culture of intimidation and harassment.

A decision from a 2021 arbitration award identified that plant manager, Stedman Letto, did not adhere to minimum Labour Standards and violated the Collective Agreement on several occasions. Letto continues to violate the Collective Agreement, mistreat workers, and shirk basic Canadian labour standards. FFAW-Unifor had formally requested Letto’s removal in 2023 and the request was denied by Royal Greenland. Upon learning that Letto would be returning as plant manager for the 2024 season, employees have expressed fear for returning to unsafe and unhealthy working conditions under Letto’s direction. FFAW submitted a formal request to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for an investigation into working conditions at St. Anthony Seafoods on February 29, 2024.

As the identified concerns will not be resolved through grievance arbitration prior to the 2024 season, FFAW reiterated the need for the Occupational Health and Safety Division to exercise its powers under Section 26 of the OH&S Act to review the hours of work for all employees over the period of July and August 2023, as well as documented incidences of intimidation and harassment, to ensure the well-being of workers in 2024. Minister Davis agreed to follow up with Minister Sarah Stoodley to confirm receipt of the request, and Assistant Deputy Minister Scott committed to furthering discussion after the meeting about what could be actioned in the short-term.

Pretty presented Davis with a letter requesting urgent changes to expedite the arbitration process for grievances in the fishing sector. The current process sees the grievance process take place over multiple fishing seasons – and as a result hinders the ability for the parties to successful negotiate price agreements when they do not know the financial implications of previous seasons. An expedited process for the fishing sector must be implemented to assist the already contentious negotiations process in future years.

Katie Power then addressed flaws outlined in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Guidelines for the Port au Port – Stephenville onshore wind power and hydrogen generation project. The Union issued a Media Release in December 2023 calling on provincial government to ensure all onshore, nearshore, and offshore wind energy developments include impact assessments for commercial fishing following an in-person meeting with World Energy GH2. The company initially refused to meet with harvesters and had stated that there was no specific language in the EIS referencing commercial fish harvesting because government had not indicated that they had to.

Minister Davis assured that any monitoring and compliance pieces will be longer because it is a large-scale, new project in a small area. Deputy Minister Snow confirmed that there are 23 representatives from stakeholder groups on the environmental assessment committee, and DFO is one of them to account for the marine habitat and fisheries considerations. Power clarified that FFAW still has not been reached out to engage in stakeholder consultations with World Energy GH2, and our interests are not represented by DFO – this is the disconnect.

The funding announced ahead of EIS guidelines being met is gravely concerning as harvesters in the area still have no assurance from government that their livelihoods are protected. FFAW had made a submission at the original EIS and will be putting forward a second submission for the amendments made, which the Union says must include specific monitoring to mitigate any risks to adjacent marine habitat as the project moves forward. FFAW will meet with both Ministers Parsons and Davis on March 22nd to continue the discussion.

Lastly, FFAW raised the issue of contract flipping. There remains quite a lot of labour unrest at the Vale site in Long Harbour where contract flipping has become a common practice. FFAW has shown that Vale is treating the Long Harbour facility like a transient construction site where workers have no job security. Minister Davis indicated that his department has discussed contract flipping at length with the NL Federation of Labour and will be meeting with Labour Ministers in Ontario and British Columbia to look at what they have implemented in their jurisdictions to see what could be integrated into NL legislation to enhance protections for workers.

FFAW-Unifor will continue to keep members updated on the discussions and outcomes of future meetings with the province.