March 14, 2020
FFAW-Unifor is raising the alarm following the news that Royal Greenland has proposed to purchase Quinlan Brothers Limited. If approved, the Newfoundland and Labrador-owned company would come under the control of Royal Greenland, a company owned by the Government of Greenland, raising concerns surrounding corporate concentration and controlling agreements in the province.
“Harvesters and plant workers alike are rightfully concerned that fewer companies will exacerbate the cartel-like behaviour exhibited in recent years,” says FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan. “This corporate collusion has meant that processing capacity, market development and rural economic development has taken a back seat to the profits of a few corporate executives,” Sullivan adds.
Over the past seven years, just five large fish processing companies have purchased dozens of smaller processing companies in the province. Some of those smaller companies purchased remain in operation, while many are shuttered. In 2016, Royal Greenland acquired Quin-Sea, further diminishing the number of Newfoundland and Labrador owned processors in our province.
Last year, processors staged an illegal lockout at the opening of the northern cod stewardship fishery by refusing to purchase fish. Buyers then refused to purchase squid at the negotiated price. Despite market demand and significant quantities of high-quality product landed by inshore harvesters, many plants are not operating at full capacity during peak times and others do not make arrangements to process when multiple fisheries are open at once. Many fisheries are unable to be prosecuted to their full potential because plants are not operating at capacity.
Many are questioning the sale given Quinlan Brothers explicit involvement in the establishment of controlling agreements, which provides processing companies with control over inshore fishing licenses, contrary to federal policies and soon federal law. Quinlan Brothers has admitted its involvement in controlling agreements and argued unsuccessfully in federal court on two occasion for greater processor control of inshore licenses. FFAW-Unifor and fish harvesters throughout Canada have demanded urgent enforcement of illegal controlling agreements by processing companies that are undermining the rural economy and preventing the next generation of harvesters from entering the fishery.
“FFAW-Unifor has long asserted that the federal and provincial governments must enforce the owner-operator and fleet separation policies to protect the inshore fishery and our coastal communities. We raised this concern in 2016 when Royal Greenland purchased Quin-Sea and our concerns were not heard. This time we have explicit evidence of Quinlan’s involvement in controlling agreement and this needs to be fully investigated before a processing license can be transferred,” says Sullivan.
“We need less corporate concentration, more processing licenses in the hands of different companies and more competition in the industry. This sale of a Newfoundland and Labrador-owned company does nothing to ensure long-term sustainability of the inshore fishery for people living and working in our province,” concludes Sullivan.