Protesters confront premier

Barb Sweet
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In Burin Saturday, Allan Moulton ( left), local president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ union, confronts Premier Kathy Dunderdale and Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman (right), who is seeking re-election in Burin-Placentia West. — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

Shouting, “We want jobs,” about 50 protesters confronted Premier Kathy Dunderdale in her hometown of Burin Saturday.

But Dunderdale headed off her campaign bus and right into the fray.

Allan Moulton, Marystown local president of the Fish Food and Allied Workers’ union (FFAW), demanded she revoke the exemption given Ocean Choice International (OCI) to ship redfish out of the province for processing.

The workers are upset they have no call back date after the summer shutdown at the Marystown plant.

Dunderdale was on the Burin Peninsula Saturday, where she visited Human, Resources and Employment Minister Darin King’s Grand Bank district and they helped Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman campaign.

Jackman, MHA for Burin-Placentia West faces his fiercest competition from NDP candidate Julie Mitchell. Jackie Mullett is running for the Liberals. Contentious issues facing Jackman are the idle fish plant and a downturn at the Marystown shipyard.

The fish plant employs about 250 and usually processes yellowfish.

“Why would government not at least level the playing field and say to the company, ‘Until we find a solution, you’re not going to continue to ship out 10 million pounds of product while the workers are here with no job?” Moulton asked.

“That’s not good and we don’t want to be at this, that’s the last thing,” Moulton said.

“When we arrived at the decision to ship out the redfish, everybody concluded it was the right thing to do,” Dunderdale said.

She said she’s willing to meet to find a solution after the election. “In the middle of an election is not the way to do it,” Dunderdale said, adding she won’t buy votes.

Dunderdale also told Moulton and the protesters they need to own up to what they agreed to. The union originally agreed to the exemption, based on an expectation of 30-35 weeks’ work.

But citing problems with viability in a recent offer made to the union, OCI said it wants to ship 80 per cent of its Marystown product to China for processing.

Workers rejected that offer because it would only give them 18 weeks of work a year.

After having words with Dunderdale, Moulton said he didn’t want to spoil her event at Jackman’s headquarters and asked his supporters to pack up their protest.

Afterwards, Moulton said he’s not satisfied government won’t address plant workers’ pleas until after the election.

“If the company had come to workers and said ‘The best we can do for you is provide 18 weeks’ work and other than that we are going to have to leave the rest of the fish in the water,’ we would have accepted that,” he told The Telegram.

“But that’s not the agenda at play here.

The agenda by the company is ‘We’re in this position the dollar is high and we’ve never been in a better position to get government to agree to let us ship out more and more.’”

An independent audit is being conducted on the plant operation.

Jackman later told The Telegram he expects the plant to reopen before Christmas

“I think there are some people who need two or three stamps before Christmas. I think if the parties can get back at the table, the plant can be open for the three or weeks before Christmas and that a schedule can be arrived at so the plant can be operating on an ongoing basis,” Jackman said.

He also expects the shipyard to rebound when it works out contractual issues with its union.

“My dime is on three to five months or so there will be work at the yard in Marystown,” Jackman said.

At the protest, shipyard worker Rick Farrell said he voted for Danny Williams last election.

“I’m undecided now,” he told The Telegram.

As Dunderdale campaigned at Sobeys in Marystown, Clayton Bolt of Grande Le Pierre, outside Jackman’s district, said the fishery has been long neglected. Sherry Squires of Marystown said the plant and shipyard are on people’s minds because so many have to go away to find work in Alberta and Labrador.

“I think it will be his biggest factor,” she said of Jackman’s re-election bid.

As Dunderdale campaigned at King’s headquarters in Grand Bank, a coast guard worker — who didn’t want to be named fearing federal reprisals — said Dunderdale didn’t push hard enough to keep the Marine Rescue Subcentre in St. John’s open.

It’s on the federal chopping block.

The coast guard worker doesn’t think the service will be the same in Halifax.

“Who better to assess the situation at sea,” he told The Telegram of having a centre in the province.

“The provincial government dropped the ball on that one.”

While some may have been unhappy with Dunderdale, her supporters included James Bonnell, 12, who is such a Tory fanatic, he painted his bedroom blue.

“Everybody makes fun of me because I love politics,” the well spoken Marystown pre-teen told The Telegram as he got to hang out with Dunderdale for awhile.

Bonnell stood next to King and Jackman, modeling their stance as Dunderdale spoke to seniors at a retirement home in Marystown and got to sit next to her on her campaign bus.

He said it was on his bucket list to meet Dunderdale. A cancer survivor, Bonnell had a tumour on his kidney when he was eight month’s old.

Bonnell wants to go into politics someday and Dunderdale told him, “We’ll get you trained up.”

Asked by The Telegram what he would do if he was premier, Bonnell replied, “I dunno.” After a moment’s thought, he said, “Probably fix the roads and build more hospital units.”

And what would he do about the Marystown fish plant?

“Get more working and the same thing with that Cow Head facility … if that’s the right answer,” Bonnell said.

Twitter: bsweettweets

Organizations: OCI, Grand Bank, The Telegram Sobeys

Geographic location: Marystown, China, Alberta Labrador Halifax Cow Head

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Recent comments

  • James bonnell for premier
    October 10, 2011 - 18:42

    well don't that little boy have a Heart

  • graham
    October 03, 2011 - 12:15

    If you want a job then my advice is go where the jobs are. I've, and thousands of other NLers have moved for jobs and are still continuing to do so. It riles me when I see people that expect government to take care of them. It's even worse when all they want is their pokey - a glorified social assistance system supported by their hard working fellow citizens.

  • Phoebe Tilley
    October 03, 2011 - 09:11

    Message to King and Jackman: Start making plans for a life after this just might need another hobby after October 11th. A hobby that we the tax payers wont be on the hook for.

  • ranter
    October 03, 2011 - 07:15

    The PC's feel their agenda can be driven down the throats of our people instead of listening. The debate was bad enough with two women shouting and trying to drown out the competition, but the Premier cannot listen and talk at the same time! The people's voice is being ignored for her own. Perhaps they like to hear themselves talk! You should listen to the burin protest on CBC morning show, it will make your blood boil to think that the Premier is blackmailing people - vote for us or we will not do anything. I'd tell the opposition to ask harder questions to the Premier because she will crumble under the responses. Show her lack of leadership. Jackman showed his colours in his comments when asked about why he hasn't phoned the FFAW back!

  • James Bonnell for Premier
    October 03, 2011 - 06:54

    That 12 year old Cancer survivor had better answers than the Premier. Yes, the union agreed to the export of Redfish in return for 30 weeks works at the OCI plant. The work never came but OCI continued to export the fish. There was a deal, one side did not own up to its side of the deal. That is the issue Madame Premier. Jackman should have explained that to you, but he does not know how. Ask young Bonnell to explain it to you.

  • John Clark
    October 03, 2011 - 06:42

    This is stupid. All these grown men standing in front of Dunderdale screaming like a retarded puppy. We want jobs. Well go look for them like we have to. I cant get the benefit of getting my UI every year because i am to lazy to go look for a full time job. Its time to cut these idiots off and tell them to go get jobs. Helping out is ok but every year all fisherman and fisher people complain and accuse the government of this type of tactic. I know fisherman and they live a better life then i get to. I went to college and got an education yet people get to work a few weeks then sit back and party er up the rest of the year on my tax dollars. I am sick of it.