The family of Calvin Tobin went public this week, frustrated after being told that Tobin would not be entitled to death benefits because he was behind on his union dues to the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW).
“Is it not enough of a devastating blow to the family that we lost our grandson and our nephew, that we got to fight now for money that should be his,” Tobin’s aunt, Carol Ann Brewer, told The Packet on Thursday.
The 25 year-old Southern Harbour fisherman was killed in a car accident on Aug. 1.
Tobin was a member of the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union.
However, when the family requested his insurance benefits following his death, they were denied because Tobin had not had his union dues up to date as of July 31.
Brewer says her husband, Richard, was the first person to contact FFAW-Unifor about Tobin’s death benefits. They were initially told they weren’t entitled to Tobin’s $30,000 death benefit policy because of outstanding dues.
She says Tobin was paid up and in good standing regarding union dues up until July 31, 2017. Twice this season, she said, he paid $25 to the FFAW.
Annual dues for a fisher are $180.
She adds, since they sold to a different fish plant this year, they didn’t receive anything from the union explaining to take out the full amount of any dues owed from the previous year.
“Any arrears owing for the first sell of the year in your name, it all has to come out,” said Brewer. “And this year that wasn’t happening.”
So while he was up-to-date with this his union dues for 2017, dues owing for 2016 were not deducted from his cheque.
After sorting out the confusion, Tobin was in the process of paying the dues when he was killed, says Brewer.
After the family went to the media with the story early in the week, they met with FFAW representatives on Friday.
It turns out — thanks to a grace period from Sunlife, the insurance provider for FFAW members — they are entitled to $15,000.
According to a post by FISH-NL on Facebook, after the meeting, the family are ineligible for the remaining $15,000 on the policy, offered by a different carrier — Industrial Alliance.
However, the family may be eligible for $5,000 for the funeral costs from Industrial Alliance, according to FISH-NL.
The FFAW issued a written statement to The Packet on Friday.
President Keith Sullivan expressed his condolences to Tobin’s family and said they are doing “everything possible” to help in the situation.
“FFAW remits the insurance premiums on behalf of members to Sunlife,” explained Sullivan in the statement. “Like any other insurance plan, the rules of coverage are set by Sunlife.”
He says this plan covers members in good standing, from Aug. 1 of one year, to July 31 of the next — based on payments from the previous year.
Referring to the change of buyer from one year to the next, Sullivan says the notice of arrears is sent to the previous buyer and directly to the member.
“Members have five months after receiving notice of arrears to provide payment for those arrears. The new buyer will only deduct dues for the current year, so it is up to the individual to pay any arrears if they switch buyers,” said Sullivan.
However, Brewer is still not pleased with FFAW and wonders why they weren’t initially informed of the grace period.
“Why isn’t it that FFAW doesn’t have a pocket of money for any fisherman in arrears … pay off the insurance company, and when the fishermen pay their dues, put it back in the pot?”
Brewer says she wonders how many other fishermen might be in the same situation without realizing it.
Calvin Tobin was laid to rest in his hometown of Southern Harbour earlier this week.
Brewer told The Packet he had been a fisherman since he was 15 years old and he “loved it on the water.
“He fished with almost every boat in Southern Harbour … He knew people from Port Aux Basques to St. Lawrence and all people in between.”
She calls Tobin’s death, “a devastating blow to the family.”
“He was the heart of our family,” she says. “And now he’s gone.”