The president of the NL Fishermen's Union resigns, denies a conflict of interest

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NL Fishermen's Union President Resigns, Denies Conflict of Interest

Keith Sullivan has announced that he is stepping down as President of FFAW-Unifor, the Fishermen's Union of Newfoundland and Labrador.

< p class="e-p">The president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Fishermen's Union says a conflict of interest allegation involving his wife had nothing to do with his unexpected resignation last week.< /p>

On December 1, Keith Sullivan announced that he was stepping down as president of the Fish, Food & Allied Workers, commonly known as FFAW-Unifor, which represents 14,000 workers in the fishing industry in the province.

The decision by the 42-year-old union leader, who was president of this union for eight years, took even his closest colleagues by surprise, especially as it was only the first year of a new three-year term. His successor will be known by January 5.

Keith Sullivan said Thursday that it was a personal choice and that he wanted to make a change in his life.

The next day Keith Sullivan had to defend himself from conflict of interest allegations, made in a blog post by Ryan Cleary, a former MP who tried to form another union for fishermen.

Mr. Cleary, a vocal critic of Keith Sullivan for years, said he obtained through freedom of information requests documents indicating that Roseann Williams, wife of Keith Sullivan, was a member in 2012 and 2013 of a negotiating team for the company Nalcor, in a dispute involving FFAW-Unifor.

Ryan Cleary in 2016. Unable to accredit FISH-NL as a union, he disbanded this association in 2021.

The union had negotiated $2.6 million in compensation for scallop fishermen in Fishing Area 14A because the energy company Nalcor had laid underground cables in their fishing grounds.

In a written statement to CBC/Radio-Canada on Friday morning, Keith Sullivan responded to Ryan Cleary's insinuations. I was not president at that time and I had no role in the discussions surrounding compensation for scallop fishermen , he writes. This is just more nonsense, as everyone expects from Ryan Cleary.

CBC/Radio-Canada has verified the documents obtained by Ryan Cleary. They show that Roseann Williams was on the Nalcor team, but they don't show who was on the FFAW union team.

There is no evidence in these documents that Keith Sullivan was present during the negotiations. This was before Keith Sullivan took over as President of FFAW-Unifor. He was then the assistant to the president.

Keith Sullivan has been the president of the Fish, Food & Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor) union since 2014, which represents 14,000 workers in the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ryan Cleary, who says he was briefed last August by a senior Nalcor official, insists there is a perceived conflict of interest and that the ties between Keith Sullivan and Roseann Williams should have been disclosed to the time.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro — which absorbed Nalcor in 202 — said the company was aware of the marital relationship between Roseann Williams and Keith Sullivan at the time of negotiations 10 years ago. /p>

Mr. Sullivan was not president of FFAW at the time and Ms. Williams had no authority over financial matters, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said, adding that the entire team representing Nalcor made the subject to rigorous checks before obtaining the green light.

Ryan Cleary, a former journalist who was NDP MP for St. John's South-Mount Pearl from 2011 to 2015, has been at loggerheads with Keith Sullivan for years.

In 2016, he launched FISH-NL, the Federation of Independent Fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador, which he presented as an alternative to the FFAW-Unifor union. Unable to get this budding union accredited, in 2021 he created another group, named SEA-NL, for Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As for the dispute between FFAW and Nalcor, it turned into a dispute between the union and the scallop fishermen it represented. Dissatisfied that the union agreed to have the restitution paid in annual installments over 30 years, rather than a single lump sum, the fishermen sued FFAW.

The Supreme Court of Land Newfoundland and Labrador ruled that the union had failed in its responsibilities to these fishermen. The court ordered in 2016 the payment of the restitution in a single payment.

The FFAW union was formed in 1971. Keith Sullivan became president in 2014, succeeding Earle McCurdy, who had held the position for 21 years.

Mr. Sullivan is leaving as the Newfoundland and Labrador fishing industry achieved record landings worth over $1 billion in 2021 and 2022.

A small fishing boat in the Avalon Peninsula, on the island of Newfoundland.

It remains president pending the appointment of a successor. The nomination period is open from December 15 to 29, and if there is more than one candidate, the members of the joint council, i.e. approximately 70 people, will elect the new president on January 5, as defined in the union's constitution.

An election in which all union members will be able to vote is scheduled for 2024, when Keith's term in office Sullivan should have been terminated, if there is any opposition to the president.

The union's executive council has already indicated on Thursday that it supports the candidacy of Greg Pretty , one of the directors, for the position of president of FFAW-Unifor.

Based on reporting by Ryan Cooke< em>, CBC

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