The role played by the RCMP in Bay Roberts on the north east coast of Newfoundland on February 8, to protect the scabs recruited by Ocean Choice International (OCI) after it locked out its trawlermen on February 6, should be denounced by all. The RCMP were brought in to ensure that company scabs could board OCI’s groundfish trawler the Newfoundland Lynx. Though it is not at all unexpected to see police mobilized to defend private corporate interests against the workers and assaulting workers for defending their rights, it is outrageous nonetheless. The Newfoundland Lynx has since set sail.
Press reports indicate that “rumours started around midnight that the bus with replacement workers was coming back to Bay Roberts, near Marystown. Almost instantly a relatively calm night became busier and tensions began mounting among the picketers. RCMP moved in more members with a two-line formation of officers down the entrance to Moorfrost [Cold Storage]. The bus arrived just before 2:00 with a large police escort, and workers stood across the street not letting it go by. Almost two hours later, the bus made its first move forward but was stalled again. Shortly before 4:30 the bus began moving forward, and the Mounties started arresting people. The bus stopped in front of the entrance, police lining up in front, as the replacement workers got off, running down towards the Newfoundland Lynx, as the striking [locked out — Ed.] workers looked on.”
Worker Gary Fisher and his wife Beryl were among those arrested early Thursday morning in Bay Roberts.
“We stood our ground and they got three RCMP officers’ cars in, and we had to move to let them in, so we let them in,” said Beryl. Shortly after, around 2 a.m., a bus carrying replacement workers arrived, and the striking workers refused to move, she said. “There was no violence. Everybody was good on both sides.”
It was about 4:30 a.m., after what Beryl called a “small skirmish” that the riot squad got in position, she said. “We were told if we didn’t move, we were going to be arrested. So they started moving forward, moving forward … they started to arrest. They had three or four gone, and my husband was there, they arrested him. I was next to go,” she said.
In all, the police arrested 23 people who were taken away in numerous police cruisers. “After they arrested so many, they just hauled the bus up, kept us all back, and the boys got off the bus and literally ran to the boat.”
Dave Decker, Secretary-Treasurer of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers denounced the company’s plan to set sail with scabs in the early hours of the morning when the public was not there to witness what they were doing. Staff Sgt. Bud Bennett with the Trinity-Conception District is quoted as saying “there were no altercations.” If that don’t beat all!
OCI is trying to divert attention from its unjust treatment of its workers by claiming that its use of “replacement workers,” as its scabs are euphemistically called, provides jobs to Newfoundlanders! It should settle the workers’ demands properly instead of locking them out and using police to attack them.
In December, OCI announced the permanent closure of two plants, in Marystown and Port Union, Newfoundland, which employed about 240 and 170 people respectively. These plants were a vital part of the local economies.
Support the Newfoundland Trawlermen!
Adapted from TML Daily, February 10, 2012 – No. 16. Sources include the Telegram, VOCM, CBC