This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Union Forum Magazine.
A great European labour leader once wrote said that, “The supply of words on the world market is plentiful.” That statement has never been truer than it is today. The market for words is plentiful and it is cheap. There are numerous platforms, from social media to call-in shows to editorials, whereby one can use his or her words to make misrepresentations, push conspiracy theories, make empty promises, take credit for the work of others, and push ideas that are destructive and counterproductive.
The marketplace that matters is the marketplace of deeds. Deeds back up words; they bring truth to commitments made. In this sense, FFAW has been very strong in the marketplace of deeds. Consider the last few years in just the fishery:
- We committed to fight crab quota cuts in several areas that did not correspond with fisheries science and harvester experience. We exerted maximum political pressure on the federal government, held a rally and march along one of the busiest streets in St. John’s, and in the end the expected the quota cuts were largely reversed.
- We committed to secure compensation for harvesters and plant workers affected by severe ice conditions. This was a challenge faced in 2017 and 2019 and in both cases your Union was successful in convincing the federal government to act. We are currently working with the federal government to make compensation for ice conditions a permanent feature of the EI system.
- We committed to reasserting the voice of harvesters is present and heard in matters of fisheries science and sustainability. To further this, we retained the services of a leading fisheries scientist to further FFAW capacity and to bring the perspective of the harvester to fishery science matters.
- Year-after-year, we continue to negotiate high prices for harvesters that helps grow harvester, community, and regional economic sustainability. Over the past two years we have negotiated record high prices for crab, shrimp, squid, as well as important price increases for cod. There is also the FFAW lobster price formula that continues to provide excellent, market-based returns to harvesters.
- We committed to protecting owner-operator and enforcing fleet separation. For the past several years, we have led a concerted effort to have Parliament pass legislation and regulations that will provide the legal tools necessary to break the corporate intrusion into the owner-operator fleet. It is now very likely that these efforts will come to fruition.
- We committed to working to improve halibut quotas, so that harvesters get the benefit of a booming stock. To do so, we engaged in the necessary fishery science projects to provide a better indication of the halibut stock and biomass. This work is paying off and harvesters this year are likely going to receive a significant increase in the halibut quota.
- We committed to trying to provide harvester access to the growing redfish stock in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. To further this goal, we established a science program focused on fishing redfish in a sustainable manner. It is our goal, our commitment, to have a redfish fishery in the Gulf to support harvesters affected by the downturn in shrimp.
These are a selection of deeds that have defined the success of your Union the past two years. There are dozens more in recent memory we could draw upon and there are still more that we continue to work towards every day.
Words alone are flotsam – isolated, purposeless, easily forgotten. Deeds are the tide that shape movements and results and are a force to be reckoned with. FFAW is a force for harvesters and workers. Your Union has the resources, the expertise, the connections, the vision, and the capacity to be the rising tide that lifts all inshore ships in Newfoundland and Labrador.