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Crab harvesters refusing to fish under current pricing formula, union wants right to strike

The snow crab season is facing the possibility of disruption again, as the fisheries union is asking its members not to fish just days before the start of the snow crab season. (CBC - image credit)
The snow crab season is facing the possibility of disruption again, as the fisheries union is asking its members not to fish just days before the start of the snow crab season. (CBC - image credit)

Crab harvesters are once again vowing to tie up their boats just days before the crab season is set to begin off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In a news release Tuesday night, the Fish, Food & Allied Workers said its members cannot fish under the price formula chosen by the province's price-setting panel.

That formula was put forward by the Association for Seafood Producers, and sets a floor price of $2.60 per pound.

The union held a meeting on Tuesday afternoon with more than 40 crab committee chairs from across the province, and said the message was clear.

"Crab harvesters fully understand the importance of their business to their families and their communities. This injustice must be corrected, and we expect that harvesters will support leadership's position to not fish," FFAW president Greg Pretty said in the release.

This comes as the season is set to begin April 6.

The FFAW also said its members are fed up with their "legal inability to strike."

Facing an even lower price last season, crab harvesters chose to tie up their boats to send a message. The tie-up lasted six weeks, but an arbitrator eventually ruled the union was liable for financial damages suffered by processors during the period when harvesters refused to go fishing.

It's already been a rocky spring for fish harvesters, as they protested outside various government buildings throughout March seeking changes to the overall fishing industry. They scored wins on several fronts, including the right to sell their catches to buyers from outside the province.

One day after those terms were put in writing, however, the province's price-setting panel sided with the ASP's formula for crab pricing.

 WATCH | Speaking before Tuesday night's news release, John Efford explains why he will not fish until there is a better deal:

If the FFAW method was chosen, the price would likely have come in around $2.83, according to figures from the union.

Fish harvester John Efford, who was the leader of last month's protests, said they estimate the difference in price to equal about $30 million across the industry.

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