Fish plant has work, but no workers

Kevin Higgins
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In a province that has seen some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, it must be hard for employers to fathom there is a shortage of workers.

Vaden Oram is one such employer scratching his head as to why he can’t get enough employees to work at his fish plant, Terra Vista, in Glovertown when there is plenty of opportunity.

Actually, he said he’s not scratching his head too much, as he knows exactly why he’s struggling to fill the positions he currently has open on his sea urchin processing line.

"It’s frustrating as there are a lot of experienced fish plant workers in the district who are able to work, but refuse to due to an EI program that allows people to stay home and receive benefits unnecessarily," he said. "There’s no doubt there are people out there collecting EI that could be working."

Oram said the federal government said more than a year ago it would have more complex rules for EI recipients to keep their benefits, and the goal would be to get unemployed workers back into the workforce sooner.

To assist in that goal, the federal government launched a new service to provide information on available jobs and labour market conditions to subscribers via email.

However, Oram’s concern is job searches.

In its new EI program changes this past spring, the federal government stated a suitable job search would include preparing resumes, registering for job banks, attending job fairs, applying for jobs and undergoing competency evaluations. It said such a search would be defined by such factors as commuting time, and whether the hours are compatible with the claimant’s life and wages, as well as taking into consideration personal circumstances, such as health, physical capability to perform work, family obligations and transportation options.

The new rules also put job seekers into essentially two groups — people who have long paid into EI, but rarely make a claim, and those who are regular users of the system, such as seasonal workers.

It went on to state that a suitable job search for the latter group must include jobs that are similar to what they used to do, and if one of those isn’t available after a certain period of time, the job seeker has to take any position they are qualified for and accept as much as a 30 per cent pay cut.

This is what has Oram frustrated.

"We know there are people out there that can work, but aren’t. The federal government needs to do more to make sure those claiming benefits are trying to find work," he said. "When the changes came out, we were flooded with calls from people looking for work, but then it died as they figured out government wasn’t doing any followup."

He said his company is doing its part in promoting that it has work available, as well as making it easier on commuting workers from neighbouring towns.

"We have a bus that leaves each day from Dover and drives through Hare Bay, Gambo and Glovertown to pick up workers and drop them back home in the evening," he said. "On the side of the bus is a sign saying we are looking for workers. We also put our jobs on the government website, and use a community Facebook network to let people know.

"Most of the interest we’ve gotten is from outside the province. There’s no doubt there are people in our area out there collecting EI that could be working."

Oram said he doesn’t disagree with EI, as it is certainly necessary in seasonal industries such as fishing.

"However, it shouldn’t be a way of life. … It should only be there if needed," he said. "There’s times when it’s necessary, but when there’s work available, people need to work."

Oram said he is sending raw material out of the province to Maine to be processed because he doesn’t have enough workers to do the job in Glovertown.

"Sea urchins is a new species for us, and I brought it on to bring more consistency to the work at the plant," he said, noting the sea urchins processing usually runs from about October to mid-March.

"It’s a low-profit species, so for us it’s there so we can keep a good core of workers. However, this is not happening because government is letting us (in the industry) down.

"The simple thing is, government needs to do more followups and get on the phone and start calling people, especially in areas where work is being advertised."

The Beacon

Geographic location: Glovertown, Dover, Hare Bay Maine

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Recent comments

  • Unknown
    January 21, 2014 - 20:07

    WHERE IS THE WORK???? This was posted on the 14/12/13, you are saying there is no workers for work, well I know for certain that there hasn't been any work in that plant since 05/12/13 & still isn't. You say there is a bus that runs from Dover throughout all the towns to Glovertown, the bus only picks up any of the workers when there is a full days work, there are others who want to work the half day but Terra Vista don't pick any workers up for half days, & unfortunately they have no vehicles. There was some of Terra Vista's workers that have moved to Glovertown with promises that there would be more work for them as they would be living in the same town as the fishplant. It's now 21/01/13 & still no work, when asked to Mr. Vaden Oram about the work he continues to say soon. WHERE IS THE WORK?????

    • Also Unknown
      January 27, 2014 - 18:16

      I have to agree with the above statements. Mr. Oram fails to mention that the urchin season is in a constant state of shut downs at any given moment. Urchins are, by far, the most unreliable fishery that a fisherperson can fish. The plants get blocked up fast and can't process the catches, and then end up shipping it out to other plants. NOT PROMISING in the line of work!!

  • H Jefford
    December 16, 2013 - 18:40

    What was fish plant workers suppose to do when they were told their fish plants were not going to operate or process fish ? WE seen on a news program what they did, The news showed people interviewed leaving the are around White Bay With their trailer in tow Going up to the mainland looking for work. Another news program some time back said THE FISH PLANT IN GRAND BANK Would NOT BE OPERATING, The richest fishing ground in the world, WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE FISHERY ?

    • david
      December 17, 2013 - 10:07

      Yes. Everyone reassessed their situation, took responsibility for their lives, and made the difficult but sensible decision to leave and go find other work. That's what happened.

  • Jr.
    December 16, 2013 - 15:41

    Offer the workers a liveable wage and see what happens. Bet they drop EI and work for you pretty fast.Don,t look for government to increase your profits at the workers expense.

  • Chantal
    December 16, 2013 - 10:34

    Nice to see David and Wild Rose out spewing their daily dose of utter ignorance and bile. Talk about high horses. Did you pay for your own education Dave, or did you go to a public school at the taxpayers’ expense? We can assume Wild Rose didn't.

    • david
      December 16, 2013 - 11:19

      Though I do not owe you or your ilk any explanation, it is rather insulting that some socialist wag like yourself can imply that I am something other than a longtime net giver' to the tax system, as opposed to a 'taker'. If there were more of us, we might have decent health care, public pensions and other core services. But because everyone wants and expects more than they ever put in, including wasting the value of whatever basic education they were provided, we are now here......congratulations.

  • Jerry L.
    December 16, 2013 - 09:06

    Employers are not paying a fair "Living Wage" and are surprised when they cannot attract slave-wage laborers to make them rich. I used to earn $95,000 in salary alone in the I.T. sector. I worked my butt-off... 70, 80 and sometimes 90+ hours per week. Then got sick, then turned 50+ and all of a sudden, had to "Re-tool"... well guess what? EI did call and say "find something... anything!" and I "Played ball". Worked all of 2012 as a telemarketer, "Only in the meantime" until I could find a real job. Best week salary: 40 hours at $13.85. I am now behind on all my bills, getting poorer by the minute and now, ever since I "Played ball" I am OBLIGATED to go work at minimum wage, even if it kills me or my finances. My best hope right now is a government job to end my career (hopefully) in the next 12 years. Then employers wonder why "Wage-Slavery" simply does not appeal to folks?!... SERIOUSLY?!!...

    • david
      December 16, 2013 - 09:58

      "Living wage"...what a load of BS. Better wages come from skills, effort, responsibility and ambition....not from arbitrarily deciding you deserve or want more. You've been drinking too much CBC and government Kool-Aid, pal. Get off your high horse and earn your way in life. Quit making up BS excuses for being lazy, self-pitying and delusional.

  • Eric White
    December 15, 2013 - 21:24

    Why do these "employers" insist they have job openings, but they do not say what the salary is or if the pay is more then what people are receiving on "EI" or even the possibility of being above the "minimum wage" as set out through our Provincial Government

  • david
    December 15, 2013 - 19:15

    The ambitions and work ethic of Newfoundlanders is the result of long-running feedback loop of government pandering and public values reallignment. What we reaped is what was sown.....a place where everyone wants and expects an existence supported by obligatory handouts, a place where all sense of pride or shame has been removed from society. Et workers, just permanently unemployed people.

    • Wild Rose
      December 16, 2013 - 08:48

      Right on David. They need the Alberta attitude and get off their behinds because I'm sick of paying for them with my taxe's.

  • Yvonne Hodder
    December 15, 2013 - 09:37

    There is one more thing you can do Mr. Oram. Why don't you call the EI office and relate this story. I would love to see what action, if any, they would take. You are so right, there are people out there sitting home happily collecting EI, not wanting to work. That's their way of life and government needs to try to change this culture. When their EI runs out, I bet you'll get calls. So please take this step and call the EI office, and if you see no action, put another article in the paper.

  • Penny O'Connel
    December 14, 2013 - 19:27

    Maybe YOUR wage offer is to low! Just a thought

  • Free to speek
    December 14, 2013 - 17:02

    Mr Oram ,The minmun wage days are over,Do What Mr Janes done if you can't pay more,Sell to Mr Barry.That is if he will have you.Knowing Mr Barry, got me Douths.

  • JPL
    December 14, 2013 - 12:32

    Perhaps if Oram paid a fair wage - not minimum or slightly above - he might be able to get workers - Low profit species? - on Alibaba one vendor US $50.4 - 56.7 / Kilogram. come on Oram - the problem is your wage - pay a fair wage and you might be able to get employees

    • lynda
      December 14, 2013 - 21:07

      I agree with you jpl...its not a low profit species..Maybe for workers and divers the profit margin is low, but for processors its quite high,,Good luck to you Mr Oram

  • Free Enterprise
    December 14, 2013 - 07:46

    Maybe if the workers had other choices of employers or could process and package the fish themselves things would be more on the up and up in Glovertown...........they have seen too much merchantism!