“If I fall overboard and you’re alongside me I’ll grab onto you. I may drown you trying to save myself because I’m desperate.”
She said that’s the way Gillette, vice-president of the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is feeling as he moves into Day 8 of a hunger strike.
“Richard is desperate right now,” said Mailman.
Gillette is set up in a tent outside the Department of Fisheries and Oceans headquarters in St. John’s. He wants an independent review of science and management at DFO and an independent review of the relationship between DFO and the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union. FISH-NL is seeking to be ratified as the bargaining unit for the fish harvesters in the province.
Mailman assumes Gillette feels the same way she does, that it’s just as well to starve herself, because DFO and government are going to starve the harvesters anyway.
Mailman attended a formation meeting for the new union in Corner Brook this past fall and still gives “110 per cent” of her support to it.
That’s because the FFAW has gone too strong and lost sight of what they were formed to do, she said.
Mailman knows a lot about that.
When the FFAW was formed she helped lead the drive, travelling the Northern Peninsula with founding leaders Richard Cashin, Des McGrath and others, driving fishermen to voting stations.
Feeling ignored by government at the time, “the union was going to be a good thing for us,” she said.
But in recent years she said the union has forgotten who it was there to support.
She said FISH-NL can support inshore harvesters who need a voice and it can give them that voice.
For her, and others in the area, that sense was strengthened on Tuesday during a protest over quotas where harvesters from the area burned fishing gear outside the DFO office in Port aux Choix.
FISH-NL, she said, was the only group to reach out to the protesters.
“I think (harvesters) saw yesterday who cared about us.”
On Wednesday morning Mailman said the harvesters have a meeting set with DFO for Friday and will be quiet until then.
Conway Caines says a fishery war is coming
Conway Caines is another Northern Peninsula fisherman who believes the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is the right union to fight for the rights of harvesters.
Caines is from Port Saunders and fishes out of Cow Head for most of the summer.
“FISH-NL is going to be local union,” he said on Wednesday afternoon — it won’t be like FFAW — Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, which is a part of a larger union, Unifor.
He said right now Unifor represents everything from newspapers to hotels and under a great big organization like that it’s hard to talk about the smaller groups.
“We got no voice.”
Caines said the FFAW is in bed with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and is not doing anything to help harvesters.
He said fishermen are still waiting to get their share of a scallop compensation fund and have questions on decisions made in relation to the halibut fishery.
He said Newfoundland harvesters are being pushed out and are fighting for their livelihoods and FISH-NL vice-president Richard Gillett is proving that point with his hunger strike — “That they’re trying to starve us out.”
And he doesn’t think Gillett’s hunger strike is a too drastic way to prove that point.
“No, because if I ends up in jail for something that happens during this fishery war that’s about to start I ain’t going to eat nothing, either.”