FFAW President Greg Pretty had a “good day" Friday when he landed the $2.20/lb snow crab “deal," but by Saturday evening the tie-up was stronger than ever after a circus of events left some inshore enterprise owners wanting out of the union altogether. The price/trip limits/fishing schedules were hard enough to swallow, but another FFAW “slush fund” could not be stomached.
Southern Harbour on a recent Sunday afternoon.
Pretty said he got a call from the premier first thing that morning, and Andrew Furey "put in motion" a meeting between the FFAW and Association of Seafood Producers that eventually led to the $2.20/lb guarantee for the rest of the season.
By Saturday afternoon inshore harvesters had rejected the deal, only the union then said the word "deal" (tentative or otherwise) had NEVER been used.
If that wasn't bizarre enough, Pretty and the union initially didn't say a word about enterprise owners having to pay into a fund if they exceeded a trip limit.
Bay Bulls fisherman Jason Sullivan made the details public after a text-message exchange with Derrick Bragg, Minister responsible for Fisheries.
Comparisons were immediately made to the FFAW shrimp slush fund, and millions of dollars that have never been accounted for.
According to the latest news the FFAW is developing a counter proposal to the ASP offer.
Any bets it won't include another slush fund?
As for the premier's involvement in ending the tie-up, SEA-NL wrote him on Friday to request a 2nd, much broader investigation into this province's obviously broken system of fish pricing.
No response yet.
ENTERPRISE OWNERS WANT OUT OF UNION
SEA-NL is a professional association representing licensed inshore enterprise owners, and is not in competition with the FFAW-Unifor as the collective bargaining agent for most fishery workers.
That said, the age-old concern that the FFAW is in a conflict of interest by representing both harvesters, who are holding out for a better crab price, and plant workers, whose EI is running out, is again front a centre.
There were renewed calls on social media over the weekend for the formation of another union to take on the FFAW, and more requests for information on how to stop paying union dues (which some owner-operators have successfully done).
FRUSTRATION IS BUILDING
The bottom line is owner-operators cannot expect the best possible price for their fish when their bargaining agent has so many conflicting interests — including representing plant workers.
That point has only been emphasized during the tie-up.
The problem with agreeing to a guaranteed floor price of $2.20/lb for the rest of the 2023 season — even with price reconsiderations — is that still won't ensure the inshore fleet is paid a fair market share.
Just like with lobster, processors and buyers can hold crab in inventory until later in the year and sell when the market price is higher.
Processors won't share their sales receipts, and the province won't make them.
In the absence of a system that can GUARANTEE a fair market share, the only recourse is a free and open market with outside buyers.
Lifting the chains on the inshore fleet, in other words.
WHERE IS THE SNOW CRAB MARKET TODAY?
As SEA-NL noted on Friday, there are positive signs for snow crab sales into the U.S. with imports up dramatically in the first three months of 2023.
Undercurrent seafood news also reported today that the U.S. is poised for a big import year in terms of Canadian snow crab.
Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization that serves as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. Visit sea-nl.ca to join.