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Cooperative effort sought in negotiations with Cooke Aquaculture

CANADA - Former FPI Fortune plant workers agreed in a union meeting to a cooperative approach between the FFAW and the new plant negotiating committee. They will join forces in an attempt to work out a collective working agreement with Cooke Aquaculture.

Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union President Earle McCurdy and other union officials were in Fortune to update the workers on their recent discussions with senior management from Cooke Aquaculture and Ocean Choice International (OCI).

Mr. McCurdy also wanted to clear up any confusion that might have resulted from a previous meeting when workers elected a plant negotiating committee, by a 95 per cent vote, to negotiate with Cooke in the interim until the plant gets back in operation.

Cooke Aquaculture has indicated an interest in purchasing the defunct FPI plant in Fortune, to process fish gown in aquaculture sites on the province’s South Coast.

The provincial government last month approved in principle the sale of FPI assets to OCI and High Liner Foods. Once the sale has been finalized, OCI has agreed to transfer the Fortune facility to Cooke Aquaculture.

Mr. McCurdy explained the decision taken by the workers in the union meeting.

“We agreed to work in cooperation with the (plant negotiating) committee. I think everyone has the same goal – to get the doors of the plant open. In the meantime, we have to get the best deal possible for the workers; we have to protect seniority and job security. Wwhat we agreed to is why don’t we get together with the company; sit down and say ‘look, let’s get this sorted out,” he said.

The union president emphasized the plant has been closed a long time and people need to get back to work.

“The people need to get the plant open and the best way to do that is everyone pulling together; all of us getting in the same room with the company and seeing if we can work something out quickly to get the doors open to allow people to start rebuilding their lives.”

When asked about the legality of the committee elected by the workers May 27 to negotiate with Cooke, Mr. McCurdy stressed the FFAW is the bargaining unit for the Fortune workforce. However, he again reiterated the need for cooperation with the committee elected by the workers.

“It doesn’t make sense to get into some kind of dispute that goes to the Labour Relations Board and takes about a year to get a hearing. That would be stupid! Everyone has the same goal, which is to get the doors open as soon as possible.”

The Fortune facility has not been open since April 2005, when the FPI operation there employed approximately 350 workers.

Source: Southern Gazette