Fish harvesters and plant workers who set up blockades in South Brook and Clarenville over the weekend have been removed from the area to allow transport trucks to move after injunctions filed by Ocean Choice International against FFAW were granted by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador yesterday.
The blockades were set up late Sunday night after fish harvesters learned that snow crab from outside the province would be landed by vessels in Port aux Basques and trucked in via ferry for processing at facilities on the island, despite delays in the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery and concerns about occupational health and safety protocols.
To add insult to injury this week, the Association of Seafood Producers, which represents fish processing companies in the province, submitted an offer of $0.01 cent per pound for snow crab this season after refusing to engage in price negotiations with FFAW for the past month. The province’s Standing Fish Price Setting Panel will convene on Wednesday to hear from both sides on a proposed price for the 2020 fishing season.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, fish harvesters and plant workers have expressed significant anxiety about the implementation of proper safety procedures on fishing vessels and in processing plants. To date, most processing companies have not consulted with joint workplace occupational health and safety committees on their plans, as mandated by the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. Of key concern to workers is the current availability of appropriate masks. Many fish plant workers suffer from pre-existing respiratory conditions like shellfish asthma, an occupational illness resulting from years of inadequate ventilation and exposure to toxins in the workplace.
By importing crab from outside the province processing companies, such as Ocean Choice International, are putting pressure on workers to return to plants while refusing to seriously negotiate a fair price for crab for NL harvesters.
The demonstration by FFAW members over the past two days is a result of mounting frustrations in the industry. Workers are looking to the provincial government to show leadership and listen to their concerns rather than allowing fish processing companies to exploit workers and take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and generous government wage subsidies to line their own pockets.