No Talks Scheduled As Strikers, Mayor Trade Squabble
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) _ With no negotiations in sight, fishermen and the mayor in this strikebound port squabbled over the blame for two fires and tire-slashings that Mayor John Bullard says undermine chances for a settlement.
″I’m no expert but it certainly seems like both of these fires were set deliberatley,″ Bullard said Tuesday. ″I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both the businesses have relationships with fishing industry.″
Joe Piva, president of the 800-member Seafarers International Union, said, ″You know the first thing the guy says is that it’s strike related, and what is this?
″Does he really think one guy is going to take a shot at starting a fire and getting 20 years because of the strike?″
Fire officials Tuesday continued investigating two fires they said were suspicious in origin.
The first blaze erupted Monday night at a marine electronics shop and a boat supplier and caused $250,000 damage. The second, at New Bedford Marine Electronics, caused $40,000 damage, said Ron Pontes, company president.
Tires were slashed Monday on a vehicle parked outside a seafood auction house.
″It’s especially frustrating to have the violence occur because every time it does, it seems to set us back a week or two,″ Bullard said. The strike in the nation’s most lucrative fishing port began Dec. 27.
Bullard asked City Solicitor Rosalyn Brooker to seek a court injunction stopping dealers and boat owners not involved in the strike from participating in an alternative auction at the New Bedford Seafood Exchange Inc.
It could be a week before Bristol Superior Court rules on the matter.
Bullard said he opposed the alternative auction because it violates a municipal ordinance banning boats from unloading fish that won’t be sold at the city auction house.
New Bedford is losing money because its auction house has been closed since the strike began.
Four draggers sold fish at the alternative auction Tuesday morning, and one or two buyers was fined $50, said Police Officer Raymond Furtado. About 25 fishermen, marching three at a time, peacefully picketed the auction, Furtado added.
Boat owners and the 600-member union broke off negotiations last week and none were planned, possibly because a federal mediator ″wants everyone to cool down a bit,″ Bullard said.
The dispute centers on the division of proceeds from fish sales.