MEDIA RELEASE: Panel Decision Opposite of Strong Market Indicators, Harvesters Outraged   | FFAW-Unifor | Fish Food & Allied Workers Union

MEDIA RELEASE: Panel Decision Opposite of Strong Market Indicators, Harvesters Outraged  

June 28, 2022

ST. JOHN’S, NL – Shrimp harvesters across the province are outraged by the result of the Standing Fish Price Setting Panel’s decision to set the minimum price for summer shrimp at just $0.90/lb. The decision to side with ASP’s final offer is entirely unsupported by market realities, which show distinct market improvements in recent months.

Last summer’s shrimp price was chosen by the Panel resulting in $1.16/lb – ASP’s final offer. This year, the FFAW Shrimp Negotiating Committee’s final offer was 1.36/lb, in line with reports from the provincial government stating the market has improved 36% in the last year. Just two months ago, the panel has selected the FFAW position of $1.42 over ASP’s offer of $0.90 ASP and the market has only improved in the time since.

“The Panel’s decision yesterday is incomprehensible. Taking into consideration the significant increase in operational costs, particularly for fuel, fish harvesters will not come close to breaking even at this insultingly low price,” says FFAW-Unifor Sullivan President Keith Sullivan. “The Panel has absolutely not justified themselves in selecting this price,” he says.

The Shrimp Negotiating Committee held a call yesterday evening following the news from the Panel to discuss next steps moving forward. Committee members will consult with their fleet, however it is clear that the Newfoundland and Labrador shrimp fishery is facing an urgent crisis. Harvesters on the call emphasized that it is impossible to operate their enterprises at such a low price.

“The northern shrimp fleets have already taken significant cuts in recent years. Exorbitant increases in operating expenses means those who rely on the shrimp fishery are facing economic catastrophe with little else to fall back,” Sullivan explains. “Companies refused to buy shrimp this spring and harvesters will be unable to fish at the price unjustly selected by the Panel. Which of our elected representatives is going to stand up and say enough is enough?”

Our provincial government must ensure that processing companies act fairly given the immense privilege it is to hold a processing license in this province – terms that need to be clearly demonstrated as a condition of their license.

“These multi-million-dollar companies have a stranglehold on the owner-operator fishery and will stop at nothing to drive down harvesters’ share of prices. Meanwhile, our provincial representatives are sitting on their hands while our members can’t sell their catch,” Sullivan says.

Minister Bragg met with FFAW shrimp committee members during negotiations earlier this month.  The Minister was able to hear firsthand the frustrations of shrimp harvesters in this province.  A combination of quota cuts and impacts from the pandemic has meant the shrimp fishery has not been viable in recent years.  Now, many may see this season come and go without making a single sale of shrimp or spending one day in the processing plant.

Shrimp harvesters, as well as those who fish commercially for other species, need increased transparency and information sharing from the processing sector to provide more fairness in collective bargainingSpecifically, information on yields starting with a study by the provincial government is urgently needed.

“We need immediate action from our provincial government to ensure fish harvesters have somewhere to sell their catch. Ministers Bragg and Davis have created an environment that bolsters corporate concentration, protects fish companies, and hurts the hardworking people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Sullivan says.

The provincial government’s refusal to take meaningful steps towards addressing any concerns plaguing the inshore fishery is hurting the economic prosperity harvesters, plant workers and coastal communities.

“We cannot allow this season to pass us by without meaningful change addressing these systemic issues plaguing the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery. The time is overdue for our officials to start putting people first and corporate profits second,” Sullivan says.

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For media inquiries, please contact Courtney Glode at [email protected] or text/call 709-743-4445.

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