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UPDATED: Labour relations board dismisses FISH-NL certification application

Ryan Cleary
Federation of Independent Seafood Harvesters president Ryan Cleary said he was shocked by the Labour Relation's Board decision to deny certification to FISH-NL - SaltWire Network

Ryan Cleary to issue statement next week after assessing decision

The Labour Relations Board on Friday dismissed FISH-NL’s certification application.

Federation of Independent Seafood Harvesters (FISH-NL) president Ryan Cleary said he’s “absolutely shocked” by the decision.

In a news release, FFAW-Unifor wrote they are “pleased” with the decision by the board, which “confirmed FFAW-Unifor’s longstanding assertion that there are nearly 10,000 inshore fish harvesters in our province, which clearly shows that FISH-NL did not have adequate support to warrant a vote.”

The Telegram spoke with Cleary on Friday about an hour after he received the decision from the board. He said he was still reading through the nearly 50-page document with a lawyer and plans to make a statement early next week.

Keth Sullivan, FFAW
Keth Sullivan, FFAW

“At first glance, it appears the Labour Relations Board has accepted the FFAW’s argument that any person who has a fish sale, put in their name, and dues automatically deducted from their cheque, is a fish harvester,” Cleary said, adding FISH-NL does not accept that argument.

“There’s not one inshore harvester in this province who believes that there are 10,000 of them. Nobody believes that. It’s just not true. But the Labour Relations Board has apparently accepted that argument, but I can’t see inshore harvesters in this province swallowing that.”

Cleary added it’s too soon to comment on whether or not FISH-NL will appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, FFAW-Unifor’s news release stated the board’s decision “acknowledged the flaws of FISH-NL’s application and spoke to FISH-NL’s attempts to manipulate the process.”

The Telegram obtained a copy of the Labour Relations Board’s decision.

It states the board’s investigation indicated FISH-NL “did not have as members in good standing a majority of the existing bargaining unit.”

The decision goes on to explain FISH-NL requested the board exclude certain fish harvesters from the existing bargaining unit for the purposes of a certification vote based upon criteria submitted by FISH-NL.

“It is not appropriate for the Board to exclude fishers from the existing bargaining unit as requested. In the circumstances, it is not necessary for the Board to use its authority or discretion to order a certification vote,” the board’s decision reads.

Both FISH-NL and FFAW-Unifor appear to agree on one point – that the process over the past couple of years has resulted in unrest within the inshore fishery.

FFAW-Unifor’s release stated FISH-NL’s “campaign of misinformation,” paired with a lengthy investigation by the board, “created significant uncertainty in our industry over the past two years.”

“The inshore fishery and our coastal communities are stronger when we stand united,” FFAW-Unifor president Keith Sullivan was quoted saying in the release.

“FFAW-Unifor’s elected leadership looks forward to moving on from this process and continuing to focus on tackling the serious issues facing our industry.”

However, Cleary said this decision does not mean an end to labour unrest within the fishery.

“If the FFAW-Unifor thinks for one second that this is an end to labour strife, labour unrest in the fishing industry, they’re even more out to lunch than I would have ever believed. … If anything, I think that inshore harvesters right around this province are going to be more disillusioned with the system.

“From my perspective, the system is set up to look after the interests of the executive of the union, of the union, and not the members.”

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The Labour Relations Board today dismissed FISH-NL’s certification application, according to a news release issued Friday afternoon by FFAW-Unifor.

In the release, FFAW-Unifor wrote they are “pleased” with the decision by the board, which “confirmed FFAW-Unifor’s longstanding assertion that there are nearly 10,000 inshore fish harvesters in our province, which clearly shows that FISH-NL did not have adequate support to warrant a vote.”

FFAW-Unifor went on to say the board’s decision “acknowledged the flaws of FISH-NL’s application and spoke to FISH-NL’s attempts to manipulate the process.”

According to the FFAW-Unifor news release, the Labour Relations Board decision states “it became clear” that FISH-NL “did not have members in good standing as a majority of the existing bargaining unit.”

“FISH-NL submitted that only fish harvesters meeting FISH-NL’s proposed criteria should be included in the bargaining unit for the purpose of deciding whether to conduct a certification vote. The Application was not filed on this basis," the decision read, according to FFAW-Unifor's release.

The news release referred to a “campaign of misinformation by FISH-NL” that, paired with a lengthy investigation by the labour board, “created significant uncertainty in our industry over the past two years.”

“The inshore fishery and our coastal communities are stronger when we stand united,” FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan was quoted saying in the release. “FFAW-Unifor’s elected leadership looks forward to moving on from this process and continuing to focus on tackling the serious issues facing our industry.”

The Telegram is following this story and will provide updates as they become available.

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