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FFAW election today: fishermen not included, no issues on table, accountability non-existent

The FFAW-Unifor’s election for a new, second-in-command to replace former secretary-treasurer Robert Keenan is today, but most of the membership is excluded from the vote, and more than 2,400 were ineligible to run for office or even nominate a candidate.

According to VOCM, two FFAW staff members are running for secretary-treasurer, including Dwan Street (right), and Jason Spingle. The picture of Spingle was taken at the Supreme Court of NL in 2016 when scallop harvesters took the FFAW union to court, and won. Another union employee, Alyse Stuart, withdrew from the race.

The FFAW called an election for a new secretary-treasurer (which pays a base salary of $125,000 a year, plus the aid of an executive assistant) following the unexpected July 29th resignation of Robert Keenan, who had been in the position since 2020.

However, the roughly 2,400 FFAW members who signed membership cards in 2019 in support of FISH-NL, a rival union at the time, were deemed ineligible by the union to nominate candidates or to run for secretary-treasurer.

The actual election will be held today, and only members of the union’s executive board, and inshore and industrial-retail-offshore councils are eligible to vote.

Merv Wiseman, who serves on SEA-NL's executive board with extensive experience in organizational governance, has called the election a democratic farce.

“The FFAW election is an attack on democracy in terms of a free, open, and transparent election given the absolute corruption of what should be the union’s prized democratic process,” Wiseman said.


SEA-NL has an interest in the FFAW election because the union also represents enterprise owners on fundamental issues like non-core groundfish licenses, and the right of fishermen to sell or pass them on.

According to DFO's most recent stats, of the 3,202 inshore fishing enterprises in the province today, 454 or almost 15% are "non-core." When they die their licenses will die with them.

That means the FFAW is destined to lose 15% more of the small-boat enterprises the union represents when those license holders pass away — unless DFO changes its policy.

Earlier in August SEA-NL wrote two of the candidates at the time to ask that they officially state their position on DFO's non-core groundfish license policy, but there was no response.

Jason Sullivan, President of SEA-NL and an FFAW member, also wrote the candidates for their view on non-core licenses, but with no response.

Besides the non-core issue, the province has called a review of the province's collective bargaining model for fish pricing, but, again, the candidates did not have to state or debate their positions.

The FFAW-Unifor sent a delegation earlier this month to Toronto for Unifor's election of a new national President, which was won by Lana Payne, who worked for the FFAW for years. The position opened up when former leader Jerry Dias retired in an ethics scandal.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization serving as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. You can read more about SEA-NL, and join us here.

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