Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (January 2011)|
The Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) Union is a trade union in Newfoundland and Labrador that represents 20,000 workers. Most of the members are in the fishing industry but the FFAW also has organized workers in the hotel, hospitality, brewing, metal fabrication, window manufacturing and oil industries in the province. The FFAW is the largest private sector union in Newfoundland and is affiliated with the Canadian Auto Workers union.
It was organized in 1970 as the Fishermen's Union by Father Desmond McGrath and Richard Cashin in order to organize fishplant workers who, at the time, were exempt from the province's minimum wage and were thus paid sub-minimum wages. In 1971 the union led a recognition strike in Burgeo after a majority of workers there signed union cards but the plant owner refused to recognize the union. After a strike lasting several months the plant was nationalized by the provincial government and a collective bargaining agreement was signed by it and the union. In 1971, as the result of pressure from the FFAW Newfoundland became the first Canadian province to recognize the collective bargaining rights of fishery workers when the Newfoundland House of Assembly passed the Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act which gave inshore fishers the right to negotiate their prices.
After several more strikes, most notably against Fishery Products, trawling companies abandoned their insistence on unilaterally setting the price of fish and agreed to negotiated prices with fishermen.
In 1979, under Cashin's leadership, the union established the Labrador Fishermen’s Union Shrimp Company as a worker co-operative. It won two fishing licences from the federal government and changed the work lives of fishermen on the Labrador coast.
By 1977, the union was negotiating province-wide master contracts with the industry as a whole represented by the Fisheries Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. The union also waged a successful campaign for workers compensation in the fishing industry with a law being passed by the House of Assembly in 1981.
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