FFAW seeking clarification on EI extension for fishery

FFAW seeking clarification on EI extension for fishery

Seasonal employees initially cheered an announcement that workers in Newfoundland and Labrador outside of St. John's would be eligible for an additional five weeks of employment insurance, but now the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW)​ says more clarification is needed.

President Keith Sullivan says his impression was that all fishery workers would be covered by the extension that was announced earlier this week, but now he's hearing concern that plant workers are covered but fish harvesters are not.

"Right now, the message we are getting is that it's unclear." he said Thursday in an interview with CBC Radio's The Broadcast.

"I think they're right to contact their MPs about, you know, how important it is." 

Fish harvester wants answers

Alfred Fitzpatrick is an inshore fisherman out of Garnish on the Burin Peninsula. He says that the extra five weeks of EI would greatly benefit fish harvesters.

He questioned an FFAW decision to issue a press release about the EI victory when doubts still remain about whether harvesters will qualify as well.

"There's a good news story for some of the membership but not all. And some of the most vulnerable are being left behind again. I don't like it," said Fitzpatrick, who sits on the FFAW's inshore council. 

"I can understand fishermen with two claims, there's no benefit to them, you know they'll be okay. But what about the little fella?" 

Sullivan said his union has been in constant contact with Bonavista MP Churence Rogers' office, and he said Rogers is looking into it.

Sullivan said plant workers across the province have had a very difficult year due to a decline in shrimp and crab stocks, and acknowledged that fish harvesters have been affected as well. 

As they attempt to get answers, he said it can't hurt for people to contact their local MPs to tell them they want the benefits to include fish harvesters as well.

"There is no logical reason why it wouldn't apply," he said.

"We're confident that they're gonna do the right thing and not discriminate against any of [those] seasonal workers."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The Broadcast