Newfoundland’s largest seafood union elects new president
The Fish, Food, and Allied Workers Union (FFAW) – which represents roughly 14,000 workers in the seafood industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada – has elected Greg Pretty to serve as the organization’s president.
The election came after the previous president, Keith Sullivan, stepped down in early January after eight years in the role. Sullivan presided over the recent intense debate over snow crab prices – which the union negotiates between the Association of Seafood Producers and a price-setting panel in the Canadian province.
“News of Keith’s departure this morning certainly came as a surprise, but we respect his choice and appreciate all he’s done for this organization during his eight years as president and the nearly 20 spent working with the union,” FFAW Inshore Vice President Tony Doyle said soon after Sullivan delivered the news he was leaving in early December.
Pretty’s name was immediately put forward as a candidate for president of the union, and on 5 January, the FFAW Joint Council elected him in a 43-11 vote. Pretty has served as the director of the industrial-retail-offshore sector since 2003, and has negotiated over 100 collective agreements over his career with the union. He brings 40 years of experience to the job, according to FFAW.
The election was not without controversy, however. Another union in the region, the Seaward Enterprise Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL), condemned the election and claimed that two other candidates for the presidency – Dave Callahan and Jason Sullivan – were deemed ineligible for the election and were only told such days before the election took place.
A release from the FFAW said the elections committee of the union, after consulting with legal counsel, found that one candidate – Sullivan – ineligible due to “[his] status as a current director of a legally active organization ‘that has sought or seeks to represent through collective bargaining people who are represented by FFAW-Unifor.’”
The organization in question was FISH-NL, or the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters, an attempt in 2019 to form a new union that ended up failing, the CBC reported.
“Sullivan’s candidacy was rejected because of his affiliation with FISH-NL, a rival union to the FFAW that closed more than three years ago. While Callahan’s candidacy was approved, he wasn’t supplied voter contact information,” SEA-NL wrote in a release.
SEA-NL was a union formed in 2021 and represents the owners of fishing enterprises in the region. The union was formed by Ryan Cleary – the former president of the failed FISH-NL attempt.
SEA-NL said that the election by FFAW was a “corrupt process” that “undermines faith in democracy.”
“The election reeked of hypocrisy, and the FFAW’s credibility in this province has been spent,” Merv Wiseman, a member of SEA-NL’s board of directors, said in a release. “The FFAW cannot hold the federal or provincial governments to account for fisheries management when the union’s own governance is a joke to the very industry it represents.”
Pretty, meanwhile, said he has “utmost faith” in the election committee’s decisions but that he recognizes the process “was not as smooth as it could have been.”
“I commit to working with our members to strengthen and clarify the elections process to ensure clarity and continued transparency into the future,” he said.
Pretty said he plans to focus on member engagement moving forward.
“My vision is to bring the FFAW back to its roots of grassroots trade unionism. You can hold me to my word that we’ll be hitting the road harder than ever, holding meetings and hearing from members all over the province,” Pretty said. “We need a renewed focus on member engagement to build solidarity and grow our union to take on the corporate giants who make it their mission to drive down wages, benefits, and protections.”
Photo courtesy of the Fish, Food, and Allied Workers Union (FFAW)