Demonstrators occupy J.R. Smallwood lobby around the clock
Fishermen and plant workers in Corner Brook have not left the federal building since they began protesting shrimp quota cuts Wednesday morning.
According to Trudy Byrne of St. Anthony, they are not going anywhere until the federal government reverses its decision to reduce the inshore quota by slightly more than 26 per cent — from 45,300 tonnes last season for the northern shrimp fishery to 33,876.
Fishermen (from right) David Gardner, Sheldon Gould and Larry Gruichard protest in Corner Brook. — Photo by Cory Hurley/The Western Star
The plant worker from St. Anthony said she made the 460-kilometre drive to Corner Brook to protest on behalf of the fishermen. She called the allocation of shrimp quotas unfair. By comparison, the offshore sector’s portion of the allowable catch is down only 3.6 per cent from 2013.
“If there is a cut in quota it should be an equal split,” Byrne said. “It should have nothing to do with LIFO or last in, first out. The species is there, and it is there for the fishermen. If they are side by side, they should be able to catch it equally.”
The chair of St. Anthony Seafoods was accompanied by the secretary/treasurer Keith Best on the trek down the Northern Peninsula. They agreed they would protest for the long haul.
As many as 100 fishermen and plant workers attended the demonstration Wednesday morning, and many of them stayed. They took shifts of anywhere between 15-20 people, and occupied the J.R. Smallwood lobby throughout the night and into Thursday.
“If Gail Shea was sitting in a chair next to her co-worker, and her co-worker was getting $100,000 a year, would she like to get $50,000?” Byrne said. “It’s the same with the fishermen out there on the water. …
“We don’t know how long we’ll be here. We are open to her reversing the decision. Whatever it takes for her to do that, we are going to do it.”
She is also fighting for the jobs and hours of plant workers in St. Anthony. She said 150 workers processed almost 10 million pounds at the plant last year. For the most part, it was done on a one- or two-shift basis — with a third shift getting about 2 1/2 weeks’ work.
With the projected cut divided throughout the plants, she said the shrimp total could be halved in St. Anthony. That could be 14 weeks’ work for one shift rather than the two, she said.
“The rest of them would have to go look elsewhere for work,” Byrne said. “Fourteen weeks’ unemployment insurance benefits don’t secure you very long. So, before the season is up again, you are looking for work elsewhere.”
The Western Star