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Not Backing Down: Harvesters Hold Strong After St. John’s Rally 

April 17, 2023

Close to a thousand people gathered today in St. John’s in front of the Confederation Building, calling for action to save the province’s snow crab fishery. The Union that represents over 14,000 people in the province, including all 10,000 professional fish harvesters and some 3,000 processing workers, says that it’s the government’s responsibility to protect the people who rely on the fishery, and ensure processing companies operate in a manner that benefits the people of our province.

“Over this last week, despite our pleas to Premier Furey, Minister Derrick Bragg, and Minister Bernard Davis, nothing was done. Not a thing but sending a message ‘hoping market conditions improve.’ The provincial equivalent for ‘thoughts and prayers.’  It’s not good enough,” says Pretty. “In reality, the provincial government wields a lot of power when it comes to the licensing and regulation of processing companies, and of the industry when it comes to the price setting process. We need tangible changes to the Panel process so that harvesters quit getting the short end of the stick, and so that decisions can no longer be made without transparent, lawful evidence. The Conway Report was a start, but very little has been done and harvesters cannot be allowed to continue bearing all of the market risk,” Pretty says.

The Speaker’s list today included Jason Spingle, FFAW-Unifor Secretary-Treasurer, Jim Dinn, Leader of the NL-NDP, Jerry Earle, President of NAPE, Jessica McCormick, President of the NL Federation of Labour, David Brazil, Leader of the Opposition, Glen Winslow, Fish Harvester from Shea Heights, Loretta Ward, Fish Harvester from South East Bight, Doretta Strickland, Plant Worker from Triton, and Greg Pretty, FFAW-Unifor President. Provincial Federal Minister Derrick Bragg attended and spoke briefly to the crowd, who continue to feel ignored by government inaction. Despite pleas from the crowd, no appearance was made by Premier Andrew Furey.

“This isn’t just a crisis for enterprise owners and crew members. It’s just as much a crisis for plant workers, dockside monitors, offloaders, truckers, and for small businesses who sell fuel or grub or trucks or other supplies,” Pretty says. “Nearly 800 people showed, many of whom got up in the middle of the night to drive or catch a bus to get here today. They did it because the fishery matters, they matter, and they’re tired of being ignored,” Pretty says. “The province just handed over $50 million in corporate welfare to Exxon Mobile last month, but when it comes to over 7,500 working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are looking at being either completely out or short of work this year, they claim it’s not their problem,” he says.

“Some of our members have already had their EI has run out or are getting very close to it. Both harvesters and plant workers are likely going to need help this year in the form of benefit support. They urgently need benefit extensions until this crisis is resolved. We’ll be following up on our requests sent last week and we’re also looking at how to ensure they’re taken care of after this season ends,” says FFAW-Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Jason Spingle.

“Why should multi-million-dollar processing companies be afforded the privilege of assuming all of the reward and none of the risk? Because these companies will still be around after a bad year of crab. Meanwhile, there are many inshore enterprises that don’t have that privilege and without a doubt we will see bankruptcies this year.  Somethings got to be done. And it’s our elected, provincial representative’s responsibility to make that happen,” Pretty concludes.

The Union is planning for additional political action in the coming days and weeks, and will communicate plans with members.


Photos of the rally can be found on our Facebook page: