A seiner with herring in its net. (Ian McAllister)

Historic win for B.C. fishermen now bargaining under labour code

Seine boat fishermen are now their own collective bargaining unit

For the first time in B.C.’s history, those working on commercial fishing boats will be a certified bargaining unit under the labour code.

In October, seine boat fishermen voted on the question of whether or not they wanted the United Fishermen and Workers Union UNIFOR (UFAWU-UNIFOR) to be the collective bargaining agent for all the seine boats that fish for Canadian Fish Company (Canfisco).

However, counting of the ballots was delayed after Canfisco took UFAWU-UNIFOR to court to challenge their bargaining category claiming that “a bargaining unit that includes crew members of seine boats but not gillnet boats is not an appropriate unit for collective bargaining”

READ MORE: B.C. North Coast residents to Ottawa: ‘We can’t make a living fishing’

On June 17, the labour relations board ruled that seine fishers could be their own certified unit and for the ballots to be opened. Nearly 92 per cent of seine fishers voted in favour of getting certified to bargain like any other group of workers.

“This means whatever they want it to mean. Beside collective bargaining for prices, now they have an organization under which to get together to talk to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It gives them a chance to speak on issues from management to licensing issues because they are in a bargaining unit,” said Joy Thorkleson, president of UFAWU-UNIFOR.

This will be the very first time those working on fishing boats will become a certified unit, and a collective agreement negotiated, in B.C. under the labour code.

The bargaining unit now includes “all salmon seine boat crew members employed by Canadian Fishing Company including captains/skippers, engineers, mates, cooks, deckhands, and crew members who own the seine boat, and crew members who share ownership of the boat, in the Province of British Columbia”.

READ MORE: Investigating change to B.C.’s fishing licence and quota system

Previously, those working on fishing boats were negotiating with the Canadian Fishing Company under a commercial agreement. They did not have the protection of the rules and regulations from the labour code, meaning companies could have cancelled deals without ramification, explained Thorkleson.

For the past 20 years all gillnetters and seiners negotiated together for an agreement on how much they were going to get paid for fish, but there had been no successful negotiations.

In 1996, the B.C. government put legislation together — the Fishing Collective Bargaining Act — which considered negotiations to be a labour agreement. However, this legislation had never been used before according to Thorkleson.

For a union to collectively bargain for workers, the workers have to have a certification.

Last year, they talked to seine fishermen who said they wanted the union to bargain for them, and signed up a majority of seine workers fishing for the Canadian Fish Company.

Both parties now have 10 days after the votes have been counted to engage in negotiations; they are therefore expected to start in the next couple of days.


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
Jenna Cocullo 
Send Jenna email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

COCULLO: Knee-jerk reaction to political correctness not best path forward

Those who say we’re living in an overly politically-correct society are wrong to say that, however…

Missing Prince Rupert man located

Melvin Stanley Young who was last seen on Nov. 13 at a gas station has been found

Year one as SD52’s chair: Horne on new curriculum, PRMS building, teacher’s strike

Results of School District 52’s board elections are in, Horne serves second term

Say cheese! Conrad Elementary students got a special treat for lunchtime

The Parent Advisory Council host pizza hot lunch to better the school

B.C. First Nation Chief Ed John faces historic sex charges

John served as minister for children and families under then-premier Ujjah Dosanjh

Your Prince Rupert 55th Rotary Auction guide

Online guide to all the items up for bid before Monday’s live auction

First Nations ‘optimistic’ about road upgrades after Horgan visits site of fatal bus crash

Premier travelled Bamfield Main road, where bus flipped last September and two students were killed

Princeton couple pays for dream vacation with 840,000 grocery store points

It’s easy if you know what you are doing, they say

B.C. man facing 18 charges after hidden camera found in Kelowna winery washroom

The camera was found at Summerhill Winery on Aug. 23

No new rules needed to ensure timely youth justice, Supreme Court says

Charter of Rights and Freedoms says someone charged with an offence has the right to be tried within a reasonable time

Seguin lifts surging Stars to 4-2 win over Canucks

Dallas is 6-0-1 in last seven outings

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

Most Read