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Crab harvesters heading back to Confederation Building on Monday morning, Efford says

John Efford, the unofficial fisheries union protest leader, says crab harvesters will be back on the steps of Confederation Building on Monday morning as their crab tie-up continues.

FFAW turns down latest offer, rejecting formula chosen by panel

A man in sunglasses and a black jacket.
John Efford, son of a former fisheries minister of the same name, rose to prominence in March during protests outside the Confederation Building in St. John's. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

John Efford, the unofficial leader of a fisheries union protest that has gripped Newfoundland and Labrador's seafood industry, says crab harvesters will be back to protesting on Monday morning.

In a Facebook post on Thursday evening, Efford called on harvesters to meet outside Confederation Building at 7 a.m. NT on Monday to protest for a better deal to start the lucrative snow crab season, along with other demands.

Harvesters have been tied up for a week since the official opening of the season, hoping for a higher price and bigger slice of the market. 

Efford called on harvesters from all over the province to head to St. John's to begin protests.

Efford had rallied hundreds of fishermen in March, staging two days of raucous protests outside Confederation Building. It began with clashes with police, but ended with what harvesters considered a good deal to grant them more freedom in their business dealings. 

In particular, the government conceded on key issues like allowing harvesters to sell to buyers from outside the province. 

The terms, however, stated the province still had to approve those buyers before they could enter the market.

To date, Efford says the province has not approved any outside buyers. That's one of the demands for the protests set to begin on Monday morning.

FFAW rejects $3 offer over market share

The main crux of the protest relates to the ongoing dispute over the crab season. The FFAW and the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) have exchanged barbs in recent days, accusing each other of spreading misinformation.

At the core of the disagreement is the minimum price to open the season, and the market share harvesters will receive after that.

WATCH | Restaurants need to know where they're getting their crab, says ASP's Jeff Loder: 

Start fishing or there’ll be serious consequences in crab and other fisheries, producers say

1 month ago
Duration 1:06
As fishermen refuse to go out on the water, the executive director of the Association of Seafood Producers say people in the industry will not wait for the dispute to be settled. Jeff Loder tells the CBC’s Mark Quinn it isn’t just the crab fishery that is in jeopardy.

The FFAW turned down a deal from the ASP on Thursday that would have seen the first three weeks of the season priced at $3 per pound, and then reverting to the pricing formula set by the province's price-setting panel for the remainder of the season.

Harvesters say that formula only guarantees them 37 per cent of market share when crab is selling for $8 per pound. 

"Each member wholeheartedly rejected the offer," said FFAW president Greg Pretty in a news release on Thursday evening. "This was a very strong, unanimous decision. Harvesters will not erode their share in the market."

He also accused the ASP of leaking the offer after it was presented to both sides by the mediator.

Police holding shields standing in a line.
Police formed a line outside Confederation Building on the morning of March 21, wearing riot gear. Hundreds of fish harvesters gathered that day, protesting for changes to the fishing industry. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

"Before our committee was even able to convene, plants began to advise harvesters that a price had been set for them to go fishing," Pretty wrote. 

"This is the equivalent of posting a price without a collective agreement. And it's completely, unequivocally, unacceptable."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ryan Cooke is a multiplatform journalist with CBC News in St. John's. His work often takes a deeper look at social issues and the human impact of public policy. Originally from rural Newfoundland, he attended the University of Prince Edward Island and worked for newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada before joining CBC in 2016. He can be reached at ryan.cooke@cbc.ca.

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