Marystown OCI fish plant in better times when more trawlers were bringing in more fish and U.S. markets were healthier. — File photo by Paul Herridge/The Southern Gazette
Ocean Choice CEO Martin Sullivan says the company won’t reconsider its decision to shutter fish plants in Marystown and Port Union.
The company, which announced the closures Friday, is in talks with government officials and union representatives this week to discuss transition programs for the 410 workers affected. But despite suggestions by Marystown Mayor Sam Synard and union representatives Allan Moulton and Earle McCurdy that they’d like to come to an arrangement to keep the plants open, Sullivan said that option isn’t on the table.
“We’ve told them, and again this morning, that we’ve made our decision … and we have to move on to the other options,” he said.
McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union that represents Ocean Choice’s former workers, said no decisions were reached during the union’s talks Tuesday with the company, and added he wants the provincial government to be more involved.
“There’s no outcome from it, really. We had just an ongoing discussion on trying to pick our way through this issue,” he said. “It’s a pretty bleak situation. I mean I’m going down tonight now to meet with the people in Marystown and tomorrow with the people in Port Union. And we’d like to try and find solutions. The company has to be part of that. The government has to be part of that. The provincial government can’t simply wash their hands of it. They have to participate in finding a solution that treats those people with a bit of dignity.”
McCurdy said it’s going to take more than just talks to resolve the situation.
“We’re quite satisfied to meet with the company today and so on. But this will not be resolved, it is not capable of being resolved at the level of a union meeting with the company,” he said. “That will not bring about a resolution to this. There’s a lot of Newfoundland and Labrador families who are heartbroken with the outcome. They’re facing economic devastation and I believe there’s a responsibility here to find a resolution for them that gives them some choices and some options in life, for what’s left of their working life, to do something with it.”
Sullivan, though, said he thought talks with the union went well today, and reiterated the company’s pledge to contribute financially to any worker transition programs.
“We had a good discussion regarding worker adjustment programs, and we’re trying to define the best way to make our contribution, and the requirements for older workers versus younger workers, for example, may be different,” he said. “So we had a good discussion about the options they were looking at.”
The details of any financial assistance from Ocean Choice have yet to be worked out.
“We haven’t defined any amount. But we’ve told them we’re going to make a financial contribution in both places, and we’ll have another discussion to try to define that,” said Sullivan.
Union officials were due to meet with the membership in Marystown on Tuesday night and Port Union on Wednesday night, following which they’ll get back together for talks with the company later this week.
McCurdy said he’s still hopeful the jobs at the plants can be saved.
““Obviously our priority would be on preserving the jobs,” he said. “We’re not giving up on that by any stretch of the imagination.”