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Letter From UFAWU President James Lawson

Dear UFAWU Members,

2022 has been a challenging year for commercial fish harvesters. With salmon and herring fisheries seeing even further reductions of access, increased uncertainty on the impending MPA closures in the Northern Shelf Bioregion, and the alarming escalation of the cost to go fishing, there are heavy battles on many fronts.

The UFAWU Leadership and Staff are dedicated in the pursuit of protections for fishermen and workers in the BC commercial fishing industry, and for improvement of the management framework in which harvesters, shoreworkers and tendermen earn their livings.

While the challenges are steep and numerous, so too are our recent gains.

• We’ve negotiated a groundbreaking Collective Agreement with Canadian Fishing Company for salmon seiners – one that includes medical and dental benefits for fish harvesters.

• We have worked hard to increase fisheries for herring and salmon and hired Dr. Murdoch McAllister to assist in this work by providing qualified scientific assessments. The Union is proud to report that we were able to persuade DFO to have additional openings, such as on the Skeena.

• Our Staff and Leadership have made important strides in bringing the need for a Labour Force Adjustment Program for displaced harvesters to the forefront with Provincial and Federal Ministries. Displaced workers deserve transitional supports to withstand restructuring or to exit the industry with dignity.

• The UFAWU is pushing forward in the advocacy work toward an Owner-Operator licensing policy and Provincial Fisheries Loan Board, gaining key supporters among adjacent organizations, First Nations, and Ministerial policy advisors. While there are many accomplishments to celebrate, we also continue to grieve a deeply felt loss.

Our Vice President Helen-Anne Beans passed away suddenly on September 25th at the young age of 32. Helen was an active fish harvester engaged in a wide variety of fisheries, from salmon to herring to prawns to halibut, and was the first Indigenous woman in Canada to achieve the certification of Fishing Master 4. We credit Helen with the accomplishment of ensuring that fixed wing Search and Rescue Aircraft were brought back to CFB Comox after a service gap was identified earlier this year, and in doing so she safeguarded the lives of fellow fish harvesters and all mariners along Canada’s western coastline.

The UFAWU General Executive Board is developing a bursary in Helen’s memory, to support young harvesters in their pursuit of advanced mariner certifications.

On October 18th, General Executive Board Member and 4th generation fish harvester, Kyle Louis, was appointed by the GEB to the position of Vice President. Kyle is a strong addition to the Leadership of UFAWU, bringing with him the perspective and experience of an active young fish harvester who cares deeply for the future of fisheries.

As we press on with the work ahead, we encourage you to connect with us to discuss the endeavors of the UFAWU Staff & Leadership, and to continue to let us know how we can be of service to you.

On behalf of the UFAWU-Unifor’s Leadership and Staff, I’d like to thank each of our Members for standing in solidarity with their fellow fish harvesters, shoreworkers, and tendermen, for the betterment of our fishing industry and livelihoods. We are stronger together, gaining invaluable ground as we grow and push forward.

‘Wishing You and Yours a joyful Holiday Season and every success in the coming New Year!

In Solidarity,

James Lawson – UFAWU-Unifor President

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