Reopening plants not an option: Ocean Choice

Daniel MacEachern
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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.”

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Port Union, Allied Workers union

Geographic location: Marystown, Port Union.The, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • mike
    December 22, 2011 - 19:46

    Kudos to OCI for making a sound business decision. And kudos to the government to allow the market forces to dictate what happens in the industry. This should have happened a long time ago.

  • David
    December 09, 2011 - 17:51

    Stop putting these stories about the fishery and the fish processors in the 'Business' section...'businesses' are precisely what they are not, and haven't been since politicians realized years ago that they could manipulate and screw around with outport voters. Having a business degree and working in management at a fish processing company in Newfoundland must surely feel like being sentenced to hell.

  • economically devastated
    December 09, 2011 - 14:27

    "There’s a lot of Newfoundland and Labrador families who are heartbroken with the outcome. They’re facing economic devastation " Try going to an expensive graduate business school only to improve your job prospects only to be faced with reduced pay, or leaving the province. So Im in the same boat only I have less assets, way more debt, and I don't have a union helping me out. I'm not crapping on the plant workers here...we are all part of the 99%. But I have to pay my way, I don't mind saying that they should too.

  • Brett
    December 08, 2011 - 07:21

    The workers are being treated with dignity. The province is letting them deal with the consequences of their actions. If the province was treating the workers without dignity and respect they would step in like mommy, wash away those tears and fork out for more candy at the grocery store. I don't like people being out of jobs either but if you use tax dollars (mine) to pay for the plant and workers you may as well just stick the lot of them on welfare until they get a productive job. By productive job I mean one that pays for their shares of services received - roads, medical care, schools, local government and policing, welfare, workers comp, unemployment etc. If you pay in 2000 dollars a year and take out 3000 you are not providing. Never mind the administrative costs...

  • Ron Taylor
    December 07, 2011 - 09:21

    The problem here is overcapacity, almost every NL MHA has a fish plant is hi/hers backyard and no one wants to have their plant close and saying it should is political suicide, everyone knows this. The problem is further compounded by the fact Newfoundland is a province, not a sovereign nation and has to contend with the Government of Canada trading away our fishing rights to the Europeans in return for other trade considerations, this might be good for the country but not for Newfoundland and Labrador. In the end these plants and the size of the fishing fleet will be gradually reduced to the point where it is financially viable which in the case of NL means many more years of downsizing in the fishery. The solution lies in planning now for a post wild fishery economy in the province and focusing on new opportunities that will keep rural Newfoundland and Labrador alive and well.

  • roy
    December 07, 2011 - 07:37

    Mr. McCurdy says the govt has to step in, i quess he means that the govt should keep the plant open and pump money into a loosing operation. He says the Co. must step in, they tried to run it and lost millions. Mr Synard says the Govt and Co must do something. The Co has offered financial assistance, When will the union and Council offer financial assistance. Maybe its time for the union and Council to buy the plant and run it as a co-op without govt assistance. I feel very bad a whats happened to these workers as do all newfoundlanders who if asked would help financially. When will Mr McCurdy and Mr Synard step in.

    • Henry
      December 07, 2011 - 13:46

      I just don't understand these people. No common sense what so-ever. What to other companies do when their losing millins per year? They close down, and their employees have to find other employeement. Based on what you see on the news and papers, there are companies out thre screaming for workers, so what's wrong with these people. What makes them any different than any other Newfoundlander that losers their job. Why should they get special treatment. All they what is handouts. They are always looking for someone else to blame. It just amazes me!