Tuesday, February 28, 2012


"We’re putting a freeze on any further funding 
of projects for the FFAW until I’m convinced 
through a personal review that the projects that 
we support are of value and benefit to the industry 
in Newfoundland and Labrador, and not just to the

Darin King
Provincial Fisheries Minister



 Tis the only way to describe my response to hearing Fisheries Minister Darin King announce on the Fisheries Broadcast that the say Newfoundland and Labrador government will stop providing cash to the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, effective immediately.

The announcement comes as retaliation against the union for its vocal criticism of the minister and the former minister, Clyde Jackman. The announcement comes only days after a rally in Marystown where both politicians reputations were savaged.

In past weeks, the FFAW has been accused of sharing a political agenda with the provincial New Democratic Party. King says the union is part of the problem in finding solutions to the many woes facing the fisheries sector. "you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem. And I see the FFAW right now as part of the problem.”

The union has received nearly $1.3 million in grant money from the province over the past five years for things like research, seafood marketing and fisheries technology programs. One can only assume that any funds provided to the union were for legitimate programs. If so, how can the Minister just unilaterally decide to discontinue funding.  If the FFAW is receiving funding from government programs because they met certain criteria and evaluation, than this move is very heavy handed, and perhaps even open to a court challenge.

It is discrimination and a totalitarian approach to criticism.  The government is saying that the FFAW is not a legitimate organization. I am surprised that they have not announced that they will pass legislation to decertify them.

Will the Dunderdale Government steal a page from Joey Smallwood and try and replace the FFAW with a new Newfoundland Federation of Fisherman which would be beholden to the government for funding. An organization full of hand picked cronies that might be banned from collective bargaining, not be part of the CLC or the Newfoundland Federation of Labour. Does the government want a powerless and ineffective union? I should stop making suggestions for fear they might actually do it!

The other message from the minister is that the government, after nine years of paralysis is going to move forward with reform of the industry on it's own. This should be interesting. Considering the government has been under fire from just about every sector and player in the fishery for the past five years, they really are on their own. Small ground fish producers, big players and inshore fisherman have all been critical of the province's failure to show leadership and buoy the industry in challenging times.

This is the same crowd  that has washed it's hands of being part of the solution when it ditched the Clift MOU two years ago. It threw the ball back into the court of the union and the processors. It abdicated it's leadership role after promising to be part of the solution.

For over three decades, the details of the struggle have changed, but the fundamental characteristics of the Fishermen’s Union in Newfoundland and Labrador has been a willingness to engage that struggle, to challenge the power structure and to insist on fair treatment and respect for the people of the fishery and their communities. They are not suddenly going to back down and fall in line over a few dollars.

It is petty politics at best, anti-democratic at worst. This my way or the highway approach is unreasonable and counterproductive. What is the endgame? More strife?


Anonymous said...


I get you have a family history with the fishery but as a person who is indirectly involved in the fishery, the whole model is a gong show. Harvesters should be able to combine license more easier but they also should be stripped of all these cadillac social programs they can get on top of all the tax breaks they can avail of. They get the best of both worlds.

The FFAW is a huge obstacle to reform and if you were being honest with yourself I think you would recognize that. That said, the fish companies should be taken out to the woodshed. There should be free and open competition and harvesters should be able to bring their harvest to another province if they want to take risk for better price.

The NL fishery needs less regulation, fewer plants, less fishers, more professionalism of fishery, more competition, better marketing, and free trade. And the union should be separated into two entities. They are essentially in a conflict. Just a few thoughts.

Peter L. Whittle said...

Fair thoughts. I have never been fond of the FFAW, particularly in the post moratorium period. I feel they have done the inshore a great disservice.

I will not argue with you about splitting the organization. I think they have been in a conflict. I also am not very hot on the fact that an offshoot of the union operates trawlers and has shrimp quotas. They can not be both employer and employee.

I do however believe that it is wrong of the government to legitimate funding for marketing and research. If it was sustaining/operating funding, I would have to say, yea...not right but why would you fund an organization that is beating you up.

Obstacle or not. This approach is wrong.

My bottom line is that harvesters should get fair value for their product. If companies, communities and co-ops can process it for value-added that is a bonus.

I just think that the industry should employ as many people via this resource as possible and profitable. If that means less plants, than bring it on.

We need regulations to keep everyone honest. The fisherman that are making money do not need social programs. I am in support of a GAI over EI.

I also do not think that fisherman should be able to sell enterprises, nor do I believe that private companies, ie. funeral homes or fishing companies, should be allowed to own harvesting licenses. THey are issued by the government to fish a common resource. The licenses are public property and should be treated that way. I won't be allowed to sell my desk when I retire from the province?

Anonymous said...

I must say, I agree with the first poster and his/her take on the FFAW.

By the way, if the FFAW is such a proponent of the rural fisher persons /plant workers, why did they renovate that fancy building in St. John's? Why didn't the FFAW put up a new building in Port Union or Marystown? Would have been far more convenient for the brothers and sisters of the union.