Chaotic 2022 fish harvest prompts minister to launch review of N.L.'s price-setting system

·2 min read
Newfoundland and Labrador's labour minister, Bernard Davis, has announced a review of the system that determines the seafood prices paid to harvesters. ( Fish, Food and Allied Workers - image credit)
Newfoundland and Labrador's labour minister, Bernard Davis, has announced a review of the system that determines the seafood prices paid to harvesters. ( Fish, Food and Allied Workers - image credit)

After a chaotic and bumpy 2022 fishing season in Newfoundland and Labrador, the controversial system used to determine the price paid to harvesters for their seafood will be reviewed.

In a press release issued early Thursday,

Labour Minister Bernard Davis announced an independent review of the collective bargaining model contained in the Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act.

The review follows weeks of bickering — including several harvester-led protests in recent days on the Northern Peninsula — between harvesters and processors over a stalemate in the shrimp fishery that has delayed the harvest.

It also comes on the heels of a decision by the provincial government to provide mediation services between the Fish, Food & Allied Workers union and the Association of Seafood Producers in hopes of resolving friction in the shrimp fishery.

"It is incumbent on me, as minister responsible for labour, to ensure that we have legislation that is responsive to the needs of the industry," said Davis in the release.

Also in the release, Fisheries Minister Derrick Bragg said an efficient and effective price-setting system is "key to ensuring fisheries commence in a timely manner for the maximum benefit of the province's fishing industry."

Bragg said he hopes ways can be found to improve the price-setting process to benefit of both processors and harvesters.

David Conway, former chair of the Labour Relations Board, has been appointed to lead the review, which will include consultations with seafood harvesters, processors and their respective organizations.

Conway has been tasked with preparing a report on his findings, and make recommendations for change, if necessary.

The current system for determining the price paid to harvesters was established in 2006. At its core is a government-appointed three-member committee called the standing fish price-setting panel. The panel steps in to set prices and conditions of sale for various fish species if the fisheries union and the association representing processors are unable to reach an agreement.

In a system that's thought to be unique to Newfoundland and Labrador, processors and the fisheries union submit recommended prices to the panel, and the panel selects one or the other. That price is then binding on both sides, with the act preventing either side from taking strike action or a lockout.

The system has come under intense scrutiny this year because of extreme volatility in markets for species such as crab and shrimp.

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