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Militant and radical unionism in the British Columbia fishing industry Frecker, John Peter

Abstract

This study examines the fishing industry in British Columbia and finds that it is failing to provide fishermen with incomes comparable to those available in other seasonal occupations in the province. Because of the common-property status of the fishery resource and the fact that access to that resource is virtually unlimited, there has been excessive investment of capital and labour at the primary level of the industry. In this situation net returns to fishermen are seriously depressed. This problem is further complicated by the fact that most fishermen have limited occupational mobility. It is suggested that this combination of low incomes and occupational immobility produces frustration which leads to serious unrest among the fishermen. While the source of the income problem lies largely in the common-property status of the fishery resource, this is not immediately apparent to the fishermen. They feel that their poor incomes are a reflection of the inadequacy of the prices they receive for their catch. Thus, their financial relations with the fish processing companies become the focus of their discontent. However, as long as the fundamental problem of unrestricted entry remains unresolved, there will be continued industrial unrest. Assuming this to be true, it is further suggested that the prevailing atmosphere of discontent and conflict will be favourable to the growth of radical ideologies and the emergence of radical leaders in fishermen's unions. In support of these hypotheses, evidence is presented of the high level of conflict between the fishermen and the processing companies, and of the radical left-wing orientation of fishermen's unions in British Columbia.

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