Ocean Choice International (OCI) and the crew of its fishing vessel, the Newfoundland Lynx, have hammered out a deal to end a 10-week-long lockout.
The crew, represented by the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union, voted 100 per cent on April 15 to accept the new deal which will be in place for two-and-a-half years.
The union is calling the result a big win for the 52-member crew of the trawler.
It’s been a bumpy road during the last couple of months, so the fact that such a deal was struck is very significant, said Greg Pretty, FFAW chief negotiator at the table with OCI.
“We didn’t have much going for us. We had the courts against us. The police. The labour laws and (still) at the end of that process we came out with an agreement that our people will accept. That’s pretty significant,” said Pretty.
Meanwhile, OCI president and CEO Martin Sullivan called the deal fair for both parties and expressed relief the regular crews will be back to work.
“Everyone had certain objectives and in the end we found ways to accommodate both parties. We both left the table in a good, positive, frame of mind and that we’d look forward from here and not look back. And get on with business for both of us,” said Sullivan.
He said seeing the 100 per cent acceptance vote was encouraging after 10 weeks of constant back and forth between the company and the union.
The Newfoundland Lynx is expected to set sail from Nova Scotia as soon as possible for a return trip to Newfoundland. The regular crew will head back out to sea once the ship is restocked.
The new agreement will see significant increases in prices crewmembers get for catches. The crew receives a percentage of the value of the catch.
Red fish will go from $1.15 a kilo to $2.50 a kilo. Turbot will go from $3.30 a kilo to $4.20 a kilo. Shrimp is tied to the market value.
The number of red fish trips allowed per crew (of which there are two groups) has also been capped at two, for a total of four over the year.
The agreement will also allow scheduled meetings between the two parties to monitor the catch and income levels.
The dispute between the two sides started in early January when talks between them broke down. The union membership voted in favour of a strike, but OCI locked out the crew first.
The company moved to hire replacement workers for the vessel, but vehicles carrying those workers were turned back at least twice by regular crew members picketing outside the Bay Roberts dock where the Newfoundland Lynx had been docked.
Harbour International, the company that owned the dock where the vessel was tied up, took the union to court. It asked that a previous injunction against the workers protesting on its property be enforced. The court ruled with the company.
Eventually the RCMP had to get involved and several protesters were detained by police, allowing the replacement workers to board and the vessel to set sail.
The union then took its protest to Nova Scotia where the vessel had tied up. A group of crewmembers confronted the replacement workers on the boat. That situation ended peacefully. Workers then set up a protest outside OCI headquarters in Paradise and remained camped there basically until the deal was struck.
(FROM THE ST. JOHN’S TELEGRAM)