Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/4/2012 (2862 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It's a case of putting your money — and your lobster — where your mouth is. Faced with lobster buyers unwilling to accept this year's board-set price for the crustaceans — buyers who have promised not to buy any lobster — lobster fishermen and their union have decided to go into the lobster-buying business themselves.
This weekend, lobster fishermen from across the province got together to deal with the buyers' boycott and came out agreeing to form their own co-op. It could be a pretty shrewd move in this particular fishery.
By and large, lobster is shipped out of the province without being processed, meaning a co-op could move pretty quickly to take over the relatively straightforward trucking of the product to mainland markets. The Fisheries, Food and Allied Workers union doesn't need plants to co-operate and process the product they buy and, as union head Earle McCurdy puts it, the current buyers "aren't the only ones who can drive trucks."
If it works, it might well be a way to put a larger share of the fishery's $17.3 million in annual sales into the hands of fishermen themselves.
But for both sides, it's a gamble.
The buyers already took their chance, going winner-take-all: uncomfortable not with the opening-season price of $3.25 but with the price-escalation system that would apply throughout the season, they threw the dice and hoped any opposition from lobster fishermen, hungry for spring cash, would simply crumble.
If the co-op is a success, the lobster buyers may have found themselves in the unenviable position of having precipitated their own early-retirement program.
An efficient co-op, redistributing profits to its fishermen-shareholders will have a clear advantage in future price competitions with other buyers. It's also likely to have more transparency and more loyalty from fishermen.
But new businesses are not without their own risks and almost-certain teething pains. The gamble for the union and the new co-op is the season is poised to start and the co-op had better be ready to hit the ground running.
If they don't, it will be the fishermen who end up losing the gamble.
If a co-op doesn't fly and lobsters don't sell, the fishermen will find themselves even more dangerously beholden to the buyers.
If the co-op plan fails, the bargaining advantage will shift back decisively to a group of buyers who have already shown their willingness to simply walk away from the results of an already-agreed-to dispute settling process.
It is a move well worth watching.