You are here

President's Column - Winter 2014

Message from the President

December 2014

First of all, I would like to thank the elected leadership of our Union for your vote of confidence. I am honoured by your decision. 

This great Union has been forged through incredible struggle, through the most challenging of times, through some of the darkest days in our province’s recent history.  But it has also been forged through great vision, through purpose, through outstanding leadership, and through the spirit and determination of our members.

The social fabric of our province has been shaped and will continue to be shaped by the vision and tenacity of the members of this Union. We should be very proud of the difference we have made even during times of great adversity.

Secondly, I would like to thank Earle McCurdy for his contribution in building this union and by extension, building a more prosperous Newfoundland and Labrador.  Earle has been very humble about his leadership.  Most are aware of his negotiating skills, his ability to build consensus during times of conflict, his ability to articulate complex matters and of course his ability to deliver the wittiest one liners in the business.

What may not be evident to those who didn’t deal with him day-to-day is his incredible work ethic and his genuine concern for all FFAW members.  This combination of skills allowed Earle to lead FFAW members through some very challenging times in our province. 

But Earle didn’t do it without the backing and solidarity of all of you.  I have the utmost confidence that FFAW-Unifor will continue to make a difference in the lives of our members and in the communities of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I look forward to building our Union with you, to working with each and every one of you to ensure our members get the best representation possible. You deserve no less.

I grew up in Calvert on the southern shore, also the hometown of the first Vice President of this Union, Kevin Condon.  Both my parents were fisheries workers.  My father was a harvester when the moratorium was announced in 1992 and remains a proud fisherman today. 

From those moments of despair, the strength and leadership of this union have allowed members and their families, including my family, to thrive and contribute to their communities. 

Personally, because of the work of this Union, I had a job that I enjoyed, I made a decent wage on the deck of a boat and I could afford to go to university.  I’ve been a proud member of this union for many years and I owe this organization much gratitude, and I plan to work with you to pay it back.

I truly believe that collaborative approaches are the best in solving problems and maximizing opportunities. Make no mistake, we will have to continue to fight to maintain our share of the pie because every day someone with more power and more wealth, is trying to take it away.

The federal Conservative government continues to favour corporations and offshore interests, many of which have considerable ownership outside of Canada.  They are taking adjacent shrimp resources from inshore harvesters who have fished the grounds for decades and taking jobs from thousands of people in plants and decimating onshore spin off jobs.   

It is just another example of an unfair and unjust government policy that is damaging our rural economy.  Newfoundlanders and Labradorians won’t stand for it and FFAW members certainly won’t!

Fish processing workers are under threat by employers seeking to lower their wages.

I believe more needs to be done to make working in the plants more attractive to young workers, especially in the area of health and safety. Our workplaces, particularly fish plants, have not been paying enough attention to ergonomics, ventilation or other elements of a healthy workplace.

In my view, the fish processing sector in the province shouldn’t get a penny of prime rebates from the Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission unless they cooperate fully in the establishment of a Safety Sector Council to address the serious health and safety issues that often make life difficult for our plant workers.

We have skilled fish processing workers that are underemployed and have to move away for decent jobs.  We have opportunities to increase our good paying jobs here if we increase our value added focus and develop more sophisticated marketing strategies.

We began with fish in places like Port aux Choix and Burgeo. However, we continue to grow stronger through our diversification. 

We have workers in brewing, manufacturing, metal fabrication, hospitality, retail, offshore fishing fleets and the marine and oil transportation sectors.  We are very proud of our new skilled trades local with Pennecon at the Vale site in Long Harbour. 

I hear about the shortage of skilled workers in our province, but many of our young, skilled workers are forced to take jobs outside of Newfoundland and Labrador. We continue to hear about the benefits of megaprojects and yet the flights to Fort Mac are still full. We hear about prosperity and yet we must continue to ask; prosperity for who?

If this is the best we can do, our benefit agreements from such projects need a rethink! We are a province rich in resources, fishing, mining, oil and gas. We are a province rich because of the incredible work ethic and skills of our people. We say we are in a time of unmatched prosperity in Newfoundland and Labrador.  We are challenged to make this a truth for all.

For women, equality is still unrealized. The FFAW, working with our national Union and the NL Federation of Labour, will be a part of the fight for equality and justice.  The FFAW’s Women’s Committee are leaders in this campaign, displaying bold vision for our province and our country’s future.

Young workers face a precarious job market and for the first time face the very real possibility of not doing better than their parents. This is simply unacceptable.

We will be part of the fight to make life better for the next generation of workers.

We will be a Union that brings together different points of view, a union with democracy, respect for each other, and our past at its core. It will be a Union that promotes and fights for enhanced rights, for prosperity for all, and for improved incomes for all our members. 

We know of the challenges that lay ahead. 

We will need a strong union, and we will need stronger solidarity to meet these challenges head on. We will need the support of all of you.

My pledge to you as your president is simple. You will always have my respect.  You have my commitment and my determination to work with all of you to build a union for the next generation – a Union I hope you can be proud of.

I am confident that, with all of you, we can meet adversity, but more importantly we can build a place for us in the future of our province.

We have been a strong and vibrant part of the economic and social fabric of this great place. And I am confident that we will continue to be just that!

Sisters and brothers, thank you.

In Solidarity,

 

Keith Sullivan