Newfoundland snow crab quota over half caught as some processing plants face potential worker strikes

A snow crab processing plant in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Workers in snow crab processing plants in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, are inching closer to a strike, as fishermen are halfway through the season's quota | Photo courtesy of the Fish Food and Allied Workers Union
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The snow crab quota in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador is over half caught just over a month after fishermen hit the water.

Fishermen in the Canadian province have, per preliminary statistics posted on 29 May, caught 29,201 metric tons (MT) of snow crab so far in the season, over half of the 57,586 MT quota available. The season got a slightly late start after its 6 April start date was interrupted by protests sparked by a pricing disagreement between the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) Union, which represents harvesters and processing plant workers, and the Association of Seafood Producers, which represents processing companies. 

That disagreement was resolved on 14 April – significantly earlier than the delay in 2023 when crabbers vowed not to fish due to low pricing in a dispute that stretched into a six-week standoff, eventually leading to Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans extending the snow crab season multiple times after portions of the quota were left uncaught.  

This year, while fishermen are on the water, the processing side of the industry has been hit by its own controversy – this time over a lack of agreement regarding payment for processing workers. 

In an announcement on 15 May, the FFAW – which represents processing workers – said that Beothic Fish Processors Limited, with 375 employees; Ocean Choice International in Bonavista and Triton, with 380 and 120 employees, respectively; and the Barry Group in Witless Bay, with 120 employees, were all at impasses with contract negotiations and could go on strike. 

“Companies have record profits, while employees work back-breaking, hard labor every fishing season, often six days a week for 10 to 12 hours per day,” FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty said. "This is not easy work, and if companies want to retain this important workforce, they need to pay them a living wage.”

On 20 May, FFAW announced that workers within the Beothic plant voted 97 percent in favor of a mandate for a strike if a deal were not reached, with the strike set to begin on 27 May. Then, on that date, the FFAW announced on Facebook that workers and the company reached a tentative deal, with 66 percent of members voting in favor of a new agreement that saw wage increases of 11.5 percent over three years, a new signing bonus, and “contract language improvements.”

The FFAW has not offered an update on the remaining plants, meaning 620 workers could end up in position for a strike vote soon.

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