Newfoundland Premier Andrew Furey willing to change snow crab price-setting process
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said publicly on Tuesday, 23 May, he’s willing to change the current process for setting snow crab prices paid by processors.
Annual negotiations between the Fish Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor) and the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) on the price processors will pay to fishermen for snow crab are typically contentious, but this year, the FFAW refused to endorse the price set by the panel, resulting in a seven-week standoff, which finally ended on Friday, 19 May.
FFAW-Unifor said in a statement the agreement was made “on the stipulation that Premier Furey publicly commit to revamping the final offer selection (panel) process and work towards a formula prior to the 2024 season.”
In response, Furey said the government was not a part of the agreement, and so FFAW’s purported stipulation did not apply. Nonetheless, he said he was willing to engage on developing a new price-setting process.
"The commitment is correct. It may be semantics, but it wasn't a stipulation of the agreement. The agreement is between two parties, one of which is not government," he told the CBC. "I've been very open about my commitment to this process. In fact, we tried to change it last year, and both parties declined. The instrument didn't work this year, so it behooves us to figure out a way to improve the instrument, create a new instrument, or get rid of instruments altogether. But we need to make sure that we have this time over the summer to talk to both sides and see what's best.”
Furey said he sympathized with FFAW fishermen who stayed in port rather than fish at the agreed-upon rate, but said he disagreed with their decision not to abide by the agreement.
“I do think it's important that both sides agree to honor the process that's established after due consultation,” he said.
Furey said he hopes the price of snow crab improves as the season goes on.
"This doesn't help our treasury, it doesn't help the harvesters or the processors, so I think there's an immense sense of frustration,” he said. “Hopefully, now that the fishery is happening, we can have a more thoughtful conversation about how to improve the process for next year."
Questioned about his decision to get involved in the negotiation process, along with Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Minister Derrick Bragg, Furey said he felt he had no choice, given the huge impact the fishery has on the province’s economy.
"I was happy to lend further support and facilitating a deal to get those boats back on the water," he said.
Newfoundland and Labrador sets minimum prices paid to harvesters for certain seafood species via a price-setting panel whenever FFAW and ASP can’t agree on a price. The panel must choose between each group’s competing offer and cannot mediate a compromise. The panel was established via amendments to the Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act in 2006. A review of the process in 2022 resulted in a highlighting of issues with the process and grievances held by both sides, but not major changes were made.
FFAW-Unifor has made several requests for reform of the processed used by the Standing Fish Price-Setting Panel.
Photo courtesy of Liberal Party of Canada