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May 17, 2023

Six weeks into a provincial shutdown of the snow crab fishery and no movement on the minimum price from the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP), FFAW-Unifor is calling for a complete overhaul of the province’s processing industry starting with immediately allowing outside buyers for all species. The FFAW-Unifor Snow Crab Bargaining Committee has agreed to sign off to start a crab fishery at the current minimum price on the condition that the provincial government immediately allow outside buyers and permit harvesters to truck-out their own product for all species without restrictions.

“This tie-up has become about more than just about a minimum price of 2.20 per pound, it’s about the stranglehold these companies have on our province,” says FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty.

FFAW-Unifor has requested a response from Premier Furey by 3:00pm today.

Company Cartel and Stifled Competition Killing Inshore Fishery

A handful of processing companies currently control the entire fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, completely stifling competition and resulting in the industry shut down this spring. Instead of continuing to erode competition and contribute to the current oligarchy, Premier Furey must immediately take action to protect inshore fish harvesters and the entire industry that relies on it.

“We know that today’s request will be concerning for many of our plant workers, and this decision was not taken lightly. However, it’s imperative that healthy competition be reintroduced into this industry for the protection of all fishery works, plant workers included,” says Pretty. “We also know that there are thousands of individuals who have run out of employment insurance benefits, and putting food on the table is an immediate and serious concern,” Pretty says. “We can get a fishery going tomorrow if Premier Furey takes the necessary leadership required,” he says.

ASP Refuses to Budge on Minimum in Effort to Break Union Solidarity

The Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) has been unwilling to budge off of the $2.20 minimum price despite weeks of discussions and attempted negotiations, meanwhile these companies offer individual harvesters prices well above this minimum in an attempt to break solidarity.

Harvesters have been clear – the majority of membership are not willing to fish for 2.20 per pound. The Committee’s final offer to ASP was a starting price of 2.30 per pound with incremental adjustments as the Urner Barry price increases. This offer was not accepted by ASP.

Province Must Reel in Corrupt System of Licensing

In 2022, the provincial government issued a small amount of new processing capacity. However, one new license holder has done absolutely nothing to build capacity in an effort start processing this crab. FFAW-Unifor argued that all new processing licenses be non-transferable, however this recommendation was ignored by the provincial government. This makes a mockery of the provincial licensing system and the purported efforts to increase processing capacity to meet increasing supply.

Moreover, harvesters who sell to Quinlan Brothers are still waiting for a provincial arbitration decision to be paid for 2022 crab landings.

With harvesters financially held hostage, companies are working collaboratively and outwardly to erode the inshore owner-operator fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Next Steps

FFAW-Unifor has requested a response by 3:00 pm today.