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FFAW new sec-treasurer key figure in lawsuit union lost to members; SEA-NL questions accountability

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, Aug. 31st, 2022 Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) questions FFAW-Unifor accountability in light of the union executive’s election earlier today of long-time west coast staff-rep Jason Spingle to the position of secretary-treasurer.

FFAW staff-rep Jason Spingle admitted during a 2016 Supreme Court trial that the union was a year into negotiations with Nalcor before asking fishermen to sign consent forms. CBC photo.

“Where is the accountability when the FFAW executive elects a new secretary-treasurer who was a key figure in an unprecedented court case in which the union was shown to have deceived its members?” questions Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s Executive Director.

The FFAW executive — including executive board, and inshore and industrial-retail councils — met this morning in St. John’s, and elected Jason Spingle, a 24-year union staff-rep for the province’s west coast, as the new secretary-treasurer.

Spingle replaces Robert Keenan, who unexpectedly resigned in July.

In 2016, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador ruled in favour of 83 scallop fishermen who took their union, the FFAW-Unifor, to court over a $2.6-million compensation fund for lost fishing grounds. The decision was later upheld on appeal.

Nalcor set up the fund to compensate fishermen for an under-sea cable laid across the Strait of Bell Isle to bring Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity to the island.

The fishermen argued the money should be shared through lump sum payments among everyone who held a scallop licence. The union said the money should be paid out over 30 years to active fishers who could demonstrate annual losses.

During the trial Spingle admitted the union was a year into negotiations with Nalcor before it asked fishermen to sign consent forms.

“Jason Spingle’s election does little to instil confidence in such an important position,” says Merv Wiseman, a member of SEA-NL’s executive board with extensive knowledge in organizational governance.

Wiseman has described the FFAW election as a “democratic farce.”

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.

As well, only members of the union’s executive board, and inshore and industrial-retail-offshore councils, actually voted for the new secretary-treasurer.

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


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