— The Independent, March 2008.
•••"There is no union boat,” Randy Simms said this morning (Wednesday, April 28th) on Open Line.
Simms checked it out the day before with Earle McCurdy himself, who was a guest on the show, and was told a “union boat” doesn’t exist.
The union has never owned a boat.
The union has never owned a crab quota.
There is an actual boat.
And there is a union — of fish, food and allied workers.
In fact, members of the “union” own and operate the “boat” in question, and hold the rights to a crab quota.
But there is no “union boat.”
McCurdy was on Open Line to talk about the latest crisis in the fishery crisis.
The “union-boat” issue was raised when a fisherman called in about it.
There are ties between the “union” and “boat” in question.
Just don’t stick the two words together.
•••I wrote several articles and columns on the so-called “union boat” when The Independent was on the go (2004-08).
“Our union does not own a shrimp boat, a crab boat, a shrimp quota, or a crab quota, nor do we have shares in any of the above, nor do we own in whole or in part any organization that has such assets,” McCurdy wrote in a March 2008 letter to the editor in response to several articles of mine.
Here’s the gist of what I found:
The Independent wrote a business story in May 2004 about the co-called “union boat”, as it was known to fishermen on the wharfs.
The Katrina Charlene was built in the late 1990s by the Offshore Fish Resource Harvesters Inc., a company with close links to the Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ union.
At the time the story was written, Ches Cribb, CEO of the company, which was known in fishing circles as the offshore trawlermen’s co-op, was also vice-president of the FFAW’s deep-sea division.
At least two other company directors were also FFAW executives. All directors and crew were union members.
The company was formed in 1996 to retrain deep-sea trawlermen displaced by the collapse of the cod fisheries in the early 1990s.
A spokesman for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans told the paper in 2004 that the Katrina Charlene was granted an exploratory crab quota of approximately 535 tonnes in 1996.
The quota was issued every year after up to 2004, and was to be fished in the southern Grand Banks outside Canada’s 200-mile limit.
Cribb wouldn’t tell The Independent in 2004 who financed the boat, although he did say it wasn’t the FFAW.
He said the main purpose of the boat was to train and educate trawlermen.
“Up to this day we have 25 people employed, fishermen that were ousted by the moratorium and those that weren’t,” Cribb said at the time.
“Those that are working and have training needs and things like that and if they need funding for certification we’ll help them out.”
At least one fisherman back in the day questioned why the union boat was allowed to compete with boats owned by the members.
“What are they training fishermen for if there’s no fish?” the fisherman asked. “There’s no fishery … are they going to send them to Portugal to fish?”
It’s fair to say there are close ties between the FFAW and Katrina Charlene.
While McCurdy says there’s no such thing as a “union boat”, as president of the union it’s not for him to say.
Or for Randy Simms to take McCurdy’s word for it.
That should be up to a third party.
There’s been a call in the past for the federal auditor general to look into the “union boat”.
That may be the only way to shed the name once and for all.