Port Union plant closure upsets workers

Glen Whiffen
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FISHERIES OCI says it has no choice after difficult shrimp fishing season

While most people in the province are enjoying the harvests of the land this Thanksgiving weekend, workers at the shrimp plant in Port Union are denouncing what they feel is the loss of their harvest from the sea.

Workers at Ocean Choice International Inc.'s (OCI) shrimp plant in Port Union say they were informed Thursday the plant will shut down this weekend, and that shrimp still being landed in the town will be shipped across the island to the company's Port aux Choix facility for processing.

While most people in the province are enjoying the harvests of the land this Thanksgiving weekend, workers at the shrimp plant in Port Union are denouncing what they feel is the loss of their harvest from the sea.

Workers at Ocean Choice International Inc.'s (OCI) shrimp plant in Port Union say they were informed Thursday the plant will shut down this weekend, and that shrimp still being landed in the town will be shipped across the island to the company's Port aux Choix facility for processing.

The company confirmed Friday the primary processing line will be shut down at the plant, but the repacking line - which operates with between 10-15 workers per shift - will continue to run for about another month. The company denied that shrimp will be trucked from Port Union to Port aux Choix.

Martin Sullivan, OCI's chief executive officer, said most of the boats still fishing shrimp are doing so up north and the economical place for them to land is at St. Lunaire, near the tip of the Northern Peninsula. The shrimp from there will be trucked to the Port aux Choix plant.

Sullivan said it's been a difficult year trying to keep both plants operating with a limited supply of raw material and low market prices.

"If we had the majority of the shrimp landed in the south, we'd be keeping Port Union going," Sullivan said. "It's an extremely difficult situation for the company, for workers and for the fishermen, mainly because of the price."

A spokesperson for the Fish, Food and Allied Workers' (FFAW) union head office in St. John's said the union will seek a meeting with the company over the weekend to discuss the issue.

Jim Dalton, however, a Port Union plant worker and the local FFAW representative, said the abrupt closure doesn't make sense. He said workers believe the company is penalizing them for speaking out on offshore shrimp issues.

He said workers in Port aux Choix have enough weeks to qualify for Employment Insurance (EI), while half the workers in the Port Union plant have not. That means, he said, workers will have no choice but to avail of an employment assistance program announced by the provincial government earlier this week to bridge the gap to qualify for EI.

"If you have to go on a project, your EI is going to be low," Dalton said. "The shrimp is there, the work should be there in the plant. All that shrimp is going to be going across the island and we'll be here sitting at home."

In addition, he said, trucking shrimp takes a toll on quality.

"Workers were told the shrimp is being sent to Port aux Choix because the overhead costs there are much cheaper," Dalton said. "But what about the trucking costs? What about the impact on quality?"

Meanwhile, Fisheries Minister Tom Hedderson says his department will monitor the situation, however, it's a business decision as to where a company decides to process their raw material.

Earlier this week, Hedderson announced an employment assistance program - that applies to all workers, including fishermen and plant workers who struggled through this year's fishing season - saying it is the best the province has ever put forward.

The program is administered by the Department of Municipal Affairs and provides funding to established community-based organizations to sponsor and manage employment projects.

The FFAW, however, has criticized the program saying it is of little or no value to those struggling under the weight of a disastrous 2009 fishing season. FFAW Secretary-Treasurer David Decker said the plan shows a "lack of understanding and blatant disregard" for the impact the year has had on people in the province's fishing industry.

gwhiffen@thetelegram.com

Organizations: OCI, Employment Insurance, Allied Workers Department of Municipal Affairs

Geographic location: Port Union, Port aux Choix, Northern Peninsula St. John's

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Wait...
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    I see why we have the lowest literacy rate in Canada. People can not comprehend what is stated and only see what they want to. My reference was in regards to the employment figures just released which state the opposite of what we are seeing in this province.

    People here are being laid off, not hired.

    Have Not, Why Yes We Are......

  • WTF
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Its just business.

  • STOP THE RACKET
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    Must be a lot of mirrors in your house Bayman. LOL

  • Keepin' It Real
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    WTF does Danny Williams have to do with how a private company chooses to do business?

    It's time that these parasites in all the backwater rural communities find real full-time year-round jobs and get out of the EI cycle. What a scam. Of course, the mindset that we must depend on the government to tell us how we can work, where we can work, how much we can make, etc. is prevalent in NL -- at least outside of the Avalon.

  • Randy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Where is Rodger Fitzerald???If he were still in opposition,he'd be screaming ,highway robbery.Looks like Danny shut him up real good,just like the rest of his trained seals

  • STOP THE RACKET
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Have no fear just star a rumor that there may be oil under the fish plant and Oil Can Dan will be all over it and millions will flow into the community.STOP THE RACKET STOP DANNY WILLIAMS

  • Wait...
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    This must have been done before the new federal and provincial numbers came out. Flipper Williams and Homer Harper tell us all is good we never had a recession and that people are going back to work, not being let go as stated in this story.

    I guess the threat of layoffs in Lewisport are also false since people are being hired, not being fired.

    Flipper and Homer have been caught in so many lies they should be locked away for life, but people will not get up from licking their boots to do anything about the lies and corruption.

    A shame really, but then again I guess we deserve to be treated like slaves in Canada.

  • bayman
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    any reason to bash Danny Williams ... there's no wonder that there are so many NEWFIE jokes. Anyone who is not perfect as the one above trys to help the people of this province all he or she gets is a slap in the face for it. The biggest problems with the fishery is that years ago everyone and his dog could get a processing licence, causing an over capacity of plants and another problem is NOT NEAR ENOUGH SECONDARY PROCESSING. The moritorium was brought on by GREED of Canadian processors and Canadian fisherpersons on offshore boats DUMPING seines full of fish so they can drag again to look for fish a little larger. paying 1/2 cent a pound more. Face the truth about our fishery !!! For all YOU people that think that you are so PERFECT ... grow up .. look in the mirror ... there you will see the biggest newfie joke ... you know who you are ...

  • Darryl
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Keepin' it real You must be a young guy or just don't know the fishing history. You see before the closure of the cod fishery we did work full time in Port Union we worked 50 weks of the year off just long enought for the men working on the trawlers to have a week home Christmas with their families. There were 1200 of ous in this backwater rural community you say. Through mis-management that was out of our control we are now working in a shrimp plant that employess between 150 to 200. Our youth moved to find employment when the plant closed in 1992. Our population as reclined by as much a 50 percent in some of the town on the Bonavista Pen. To have people like you to degrade us in such a way makes me sick at least be man enought to put you name there so everyone can see what kind of person you are.

  • joan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Isn't there a by-election takeing place on the northern pinisula,where port aux choix is located??? and somehow this name Martin Sullivan rings a bell..Oh yes isn;t he Loyola's brother.Just a little food for thought for the peaple of Port Union-Catalina-Bonavista.

  • Wait...
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    I see why we have the lowest literacy rate in Canada. People can not comprehend what is stated and only see what they want to. My reference was in regards to the employment figures just released which state the opposite of what we are seeing in this province.

    People here are being laid off, not hired.

    Have Not, Why Yes We Are......

  • WTF
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Its just business.

  • STOP THE RACKET
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    Must be a lot of mirrors in your house Bayman. LOL

  • Keepin' It Real
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    WTF does Danny Williams have to do with how a private company chooses to do business?

    It's time that these parasites in all the backwater rural communities find real full-time year-round jobs and get out of the EI cycle. What a scam. Of course, the mindset that we must depend on the government to tell us how we can work, where we can work, how much we can make, etc. is prevalent in NL -- at least outside of the Avalon.

  • Randy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Where is Rodger Fitzerald???If he were still in opposition,he'd be screaming ,highway robbery.Looks like Danny shut him up real good,just like the rest of his trained seals

  • STOP THE RACKET
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    Have no fear just star a rumor that there may be oil under the fish plant and Oil Can Dan will be all over it and millions will flow into the community.STOP THE RACKET STOP DANNY WILLIAMS

  • Wait...
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    This must have been done before the new federal and provincial numbers came out. Flipper Williams and Homer Harper tell us all is good we never had a recession and that people are going back to work, not being let go as stated in this story.

    I guess the threat of layoffs in Lewisport are also false since people are being hired, not being fired.

    Flipper and Homer have been caught in so many lies they should be locked away for life, but people will not get up from licking their boots to do anything about the lies and corruption.

    A shame really, but then again I guess we deserve to be treated like slaves in Canada.

  • bayman
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    any reason to bash Danny Williams ... there's no wonder that there are so many NEWFIE jokes. Anyone who is not perfect as the one above trys to help the people of this province all he or she gets is a slap in the face for it. The biggest problems with the fishery is that years ago everyone and his dog could get a processing licence, causing an over capacity of plants and another problem is NOT NEAR ENOUGH SECONDARY PROCESSING. The moritorium was brought on by GREED of Canadian processors and Canadian fisherpersons on offshore boats DUMPING seines full of fish so they can drag again to look for fish a little larger. paying 1/2 cent a pound more. Face the truth about our fishery !!! For all YOU people that think that you are so PERFECT ... grow up .. look in the mirror ... there you will see the biggest newfie joke ... you know who you are ...

  • Darryl
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    Keepin' it real You must be a young guy or just don't know the fishing history. You see before the closure of the cod fishery we did work full time in Port Union we worked 50 weks of the year off just long enought for the men working on the trawlers to have a week home Christmas with their families. There were 1200 of ous in this backwater rural community you say. Through mis-management that was out of our control we are now working in a shrimp plant that employess between 150 to 200. Our youth moved to find employment when the plant closed in 1992. Our population as reclined by as much a 50 percent in some of the town on the Bonavista Pen. To have people like you to degrade us in such a way makes me sick at least be man enought to put you name there so everyone can see what kind of person you are.

  • joan
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Isn't there a by-election takeing place on the northern pinisula,where port aux choix is located??? and somehow this name Martin Sullivan rings a bell..Oh yes isn;t he Loyola's brother.Just a little food for thought for the peaple of Port Union-Catalina-Bonavista.