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Leaders Say Boat Exodus Hurts The Strike

February 6, 1986

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) _ Striking union fishermen admit their cause is being hurt by boats slipping from the harbor to fish, a development owners say strengthens their resolve not to budge from their last offer or resume talks to end a six-week walkout.

″They felt that we were on the proper course and that there should be no change in our position,″ David Barnet, attorney for the 32-owner Seafood Producers Association, said Wednesday night after a meeting.

″I don’t know what good talking would do at this point, because we are so far apart,″ he said. ″We hope to sail and offer the men again the same terms in our final offer. The men know what those terms are. It’s status quo.″

An exodus of 20 boats from port for the first time in six weeks hurt the walkout by 800 crewmembers, but only a few strikers crossed picket lines, said Joseph Piva, port agent for the Seafarers International Union.

″When you see a boat leave, you feel pretty bad. Any time a boat leaves it hurts,″ Piva said. ″But when the guys get angry, they stay here, they won’t go out. They’ll just keep going until the money runs out.″

The departing boats have only strengthened the union’s resolve not to fish until owners agree to the terms of their old contract, which expired nearly a year ago, Piva said, adding that only ″a few″ strikers are working again.

Barnet said a final offer made to fishermen Monday would increase boat owners’ portion of proceeds from 36 percent to 40 percent aboard scallopers, and from 42 percent to 48 percent aboard draggers. The proposed contract also would have given boat owners the power to hire and fire at will, he said.

Piva said the union has filed unfair labor practices claims with the National Labor Relations Board against 29 boats that have gone fishing without their regular union crews in the last two weeks. No hearings were scheduled.

The boats that left port were owned by members of the producers assocation, said president Robert Britto.

″Does this mean the strike’s over? That’s the $64,000 question,″ Barnet said. ″I don’t characterize it at all. I just say, if we can get our boats out, fine.″