It had potential to be the good news story of the year for Darryl Johnson, but between the jigs and the reels something went wrong.
Johnson, the Trinity Bay North manager, which takes in Port Union, was in St. John’s today for the announcement that the Port Union shrimp plant would not reopen. Indications prior to the meeting weren’t looking good. The building had been severely damaged by Hurricane Igor, and there were massive cuts to shrimp quotas earlier this year.
He said the mood entering the meeting was a somber one.
“But until you heard the actual words that the plant wasn’t going to reopen you always had some hope,” he said.
“It’s devastating news for the employees, for the families depending on the work, and for the town to lose an employer.
“These people should be home planning to enjoy Christmas, instead of having to worry about how they are going to get a Christmas dinner.”
He said the town can’t dwell on the past and now has to find a way to move forward.
This isn’t the first time the town has dealt with a plant closure.
In 1992, the cod moratorium saw approximately 1,000 people laid off in Port Union.
When the shrimp plant reopened a decade ago, it returned roughly 170 jobs to the town.
“To get things back we have to figure out a way to entice a new employer to the area,” he said.
Johnson said he would like to see OCI take the insurance money received from Igor related damages, and have it reinvested back into the plant so it can return it to an operational state.
With a plant ready to operate, he said, it would be more appealing to luring alternate sources of income.
Johnson said Martin Sullivan, President and CEO of Ocean Choice International, has committed to a walk through of the building, in the near future, to see what can be done in the way of repairs.
When it comes to government’s involvement, Johnson said, the departments have to work in conjunction with the town to discuss potential ventures, and marketing the area.
He said the government should also start working towards compensating displaced workers.
“No one wants it to get to that point, but once it does, the programming is there to take advantage of,” he said. “We’ll be working with the province and the FFAW union to make sure people are compensated, retrained, or whatever else can be offered.”
Meanwhile, Jim Dalton, FFAW representative at the Port Union Plant, says workers may stage protest there next week.
More details in next week’s edition.