Letters to the editor -
It's time for change in the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union, because if not, this once proud union will no longer represent the inshore fishers of this province.
Since 1994 when Earl McCurdy took over the reins of the FFAW, this once proud union has become this disorganized and laughable organization that is now the least respected union in the province and with very little clout when it comes to standing up for fishers.
Of all the major unions in the province the FFAW is at the bottom of the pile.
Fact, the FFAW held it annual conference in Gander at the end of November 2009 and not one of the television or radio stations, or newspapers showed up to report on the conference. The only reporter there was a reporter from the local paper.
I remember the days of Mr. Cashin and Father Des McGrath, when every word they spoke or uttered was scrutinized and not only that were printed or video taped because they were respected and were union leaders to be taken seriously.
Furthermore, Mr. McCurdy stated on CBC's Fisheries Broadcast (FB) at about the same time that he would have to rally the troops to counter negative union comments been broadcasted on the FB.
Fact, this only details what dire straits the union is in. He basically admitted that, other than those within the FFAW's executive, staff, or those that represent the union on plant floors or in other direct ways, there isn't anyone that as enough faith, respect, pride, and belief in what the union is doing to just spontaneously pick up the phone and defend the FFAW. This in itself speaks volumes about the volatility of the union and lack of confidences among its membership.
Mr. McCurdy and the FFAW claim they are representing the inshore fishers to the best of their ability.
Fact, the FFAW doesn't have any time for the inshore fishers. Sure they will show spotty tokens of support by showing up at certain rally but not all - just ask the fishers on the Northeast Coast that protested in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Also to prove this point, just ask the Browns from Twillingate. During the spring of 2008 they were run down in their 23-foot speedboat while hauling crab pots in Notre Dame Bay by a 570-foot paper carrier leaving Botwood. These men came as close to death as one can without dying. During the incident, the men were tossed around in their speedboat, came close to capsizing, had a hole punctured in their boat, one outboard motor was destroyed, had to cut lose their crab pots to ensure their safety, and they lost valuable fishing time while repairing their boat and motors.
The FFAW heard about the incident and didn't contact the men even just to inquire about their well-being.
Any other union would have been outraged and demanded retribution and a change in the way large container vessels maneuver in know fishing areas.
What other union in this province would be informed that members were involved in a life and death accident within their workplace and not get involved? The answer is simple, none. Any other union would have offer support in the form of advice, legal representation, start an Occupational Health and Safety Board review, and would have tried to get to the bottom of this so it wouldn't happen again. The FFAW sat on their hands until they were humiliated to the point that they had to get involved. The FFAW had to be coerced, begged, embarrassed and threatened to lift a finger to help these fishermen in need of help. To this day, FFAW has yet to admit that they dropped the ball and should have been there right from the start. That's just only one of many examples where the union has failed fishers and there are many more.
Mr. McCurdy stated a short time ago that the coalition that is trying to have the inshore fishers break away from the FFAW and represent themselves doesn't have a concrete plan for dealing with the troubles in the fishery.
Fact, the FFAW hasn't had a concrete plan for the fishery inshore or off-shore, since Mr. McCurdy took over the reins of power in 1994. The FFAW figured that the inshore fishery would be dead and gone prior to now after the moratorium in 1992 but are disappointed that it didn't.
Mr. McCurdy and the processors along with the government are now working on an MOU to try to save the fishery however this effort is failing because of the lack of commitment from the FFAW and the Association of Seafood Producers.
Fact, the provincial fisheries minister had to light a fire under the rears of the FFAW and the processors to get them moving on this MOU. You would think that if Mr. McCurdy was so concerned about the fishery that the provincial fisheries minister would be on his speed dial and if there wasn't a conversation between his and the minister's office every day or every second day that there would have to be a problem with the phone service.
After the meeting between processors, FFAW and the minister on Jan, 22, the Union and the processors couldn't decide what substance that the meeting had. One stated that the presentations were detailed in nature while the other stated that there wasn't much detail in the presentations just overviews of each proposal. This MOU will go the way of the Premier's summit on the fishery, all talk but very little action.
The FFAW as too many irons in the fire to allow it to give the time and energy that is needed to ensure proper representation for fishers of this province. Whichever group finds itself representing the fishers of this province must have as their only and primary objective is to represent fishers and fishers only if this province's fishery is to survive.
In conclusion, these are a few of my observations with regards to the way the FFAW, particularly Mr. McCurdy, is representing fishers of this province. These examples are but a small number of those that I could comment on, however, time and space would only permit me to list a few.