Burin plant closure cuts deep

James McLeod
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High Liner decision will eliminate 121 jobs

It was another devastating blow to a hard-hit part of rural Newfoundland — the value-added fish plant in Burin will close.

In a news release Thursday, High Liner Foods announced it will close its Burin plant, eliminating the 121 full-time jobs there.

“High Liner Foods recognizes that this is a very difficult day,” CEO Henry Demone said in a news release. “We must be cost-efficient to remain competitive. Despite our growth, the reality is that we only need four North American plants to supply our customers.”

Fisheries Minister Darin King acknowledged the closure will be hard on people in the area, and promised the government will support the displaced workers.

However, King said the plant closure is the hard reality of the modern, global fishing industry.

“These things are going to happen. If this industry is going to right size itself, you’re going to see plant closures, and you’re going to see more of them. It’s just the way the industry is evolving,” King said. “It’s certainly not the end of the process.”

High Liner said it would honour all of the commitments it is bound by from when it bought the plant from Fishery Products International (FPI) in 2007.

Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, said he’s not surprised the plant is closing right now, just as the five-year agreement from the FPI sale is expiring.

“The company had all kinds of choices because it’s a very profitable operation and it just saw a  chance to make a bigger buck elsewhere,” McCurdy said. “I think there’s a responsibility on the company here to contribute financially to the cost of adjustment. They shouldn’t just be carpetbaggers and take their leave as they feel like it and just leave the carnage behind.”

McCurdy said that because the Burin plant did value-added products, it’s a particularly hard loss for the people who worked there.

“It did have a substantial history over the last 30 years and it was value added,” he said. “It was above and beyond just doing primary producing of stuff that was at our doorstep. Yeah, it is a loss.”

Opposition politicians immediately jumped on the plant. Liberal MHA Jim Bennett said King should look for someone else to take over and operate the facility.

“There may be something that can be produced there locally, and it may just not fit into a big conglomerate like High Liner,” Bennett said. “And if they don’t want it, that’s just fine, there may be a small operator that would be happy to have it and make money.”

King, however, told reporters he doesn’t believe there’s anything the government can do to keep the plant open.

In the House of Assembly, New Democrat fisheries critic Christopher Mitchelmore challenged King, saying there has been such a steady march of plant closures that the government may not have enough money to support the roughly 600 workers who will be unemployed.

“We have seen closures in Port Union, Marystown, St. Lewis, yesterday in Black Tickle and today an announcement that the High Liner plant in Burin will close by the end of the year,” Mitchelmore said. “Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: What are the short- and long-term plans that he has in place to adequately take care of the people, some of whom committed more than 40 years to these plants?”

King told The House the government is still figuring out how the closure process will go.

“At this point in time we are trying to figure out how the process will unfold for the company in reaching out to the workers, and more importantly, for government in responding to reach out to those workers and those families who are going to be devastated by this news and wondering what their future holds,” he said.


Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: High Liner Foods, Fishery Products International, North American Allied Workers union Port Union

Geographic location: Burin, Newfoundland, Marystown Black Tickle

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Recent comments

  • Stop blaming the fishers, blame the perpetrator who took away their fish quotas to satisfy producing surplus goods in Central Canada to trade internationally.
    May 05, 2012 - 07:54

    The Ottawa Government is the lazy man in the case of the fishery, 45 years ago it stole a coveted and prolific fish protein resource from out under the fishers noses, without having any consultation with the fishers to apprise them of what was going on. Ottawa saw the fish resource as the perfect 'enabler' to grow surplus Agriculture products and produce surplus Manufactured goods in other parts of Canada to create a massive number of jobs and economy (and a massive number of immigrants could be added to populate Central Canada to fill those jobs) and then it traded the Canadian goods Internationally with the coveted fish protein resource the World wanted more than anything else. Ottawa devised a program to give the fishers a few thousand pounds of fish to prosecute at very low prices and then subsidized it with E.I. The fishers had no idea why this happened to them because they were not apprised, it was all done on the sly and the fishers have been crucified ever since, not only from the rest of Canadians but from their fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, who also had no idea of the skulduggery that had happened to the fishers' fish resource. To add to the misery they were paid for their fish product up to 30 per cent less than their neighbor fishers in Maritime Canada. Instead of blaming the fishers ask Ottawa to stop using the fish resource as the enabler to trade products and goods for the rest of Canada and put those quotas back into the fishers of Newfoundland and Labrador's jurisdiction so that they can work their 12 months of the year.

    • charley ghanem
      December 16, 2012 - 09:46

      2 things I need to know: Is there really a Captain Highliner ? if so, does he keep his job ? and secondly, the sea captain from the Simpsons....can he make it work ?

  • Duffy
    May 05, 2012 - 05:59

    It is so nice to work a few weeks a year then sit home and watch TV all winter and drink beer at $400 a week (more than you clear at minimum wage). We have been supporting the fish crew for 20 years so they can work across the street and live in Momma's back yard while the rest of us go where the jobs are and work all year. Lazy and think they are owed everything. Stop blaming everyone else and go where the jobs are.

  • You are right Fintip, the Front men are operatives for the Fish Merchants and Nalcor
    May 04, 2012 - 22:49

    FINTIP you are right "BUSINESS MAN" is a front for the fish producers just as John Smith is a front for NALCOR. They are operatives for government and the merchants. They haven't fooled me. I am playing their game on behalf of the people, especially the fishers and I am hoping the more they write the more Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will open their eyes to the trickery and lack of transparency they are being subjected to.

  • Fintip
    May 04, 2012 - 20:18

    To those of you who are replying to Business Man, you should be aware that he is simply a front for the fish producers (much as John Smith is a front for Nalcor). They have been lobbying government officials behind the scenes and blasting away at the fish union, fishermen and fishing communities publicly every chance they get. Their message and their motive are pretty simple. They want to roll the clock back to the good ole days when the fish merchants in St. John's had total, absolute control not only over fish resources but over the fishermen, their families and their communities. A handful of Water Street merchants enjoyed an oligopoly over the industry, employing the "truck" system to keep fishermen dependent and impoverished. It was pointless in those days to look for help from elected politicians. Most of them were deeply entrenched in the back pockets of the merchants. There were fleeting exceptions - short periods when people like William Coaker were able to persuade fishermen that they could either hang together or hang separately. A century later fishermen are right back where the exploitive fish companies want them - under the thumb and running scared. Worse still is that they now have two levels of government that are openly hostile to their interests. The Harper gang can do what it wants, including re-allocating quotas out of the province and gutting search & rescue, in the knowledge that Dunderdale is so fixated on getting a loan guarantee that she will accept any abuse they heap on this province. Meanwhile her puffed up little munchkin Darren King - with the full blessing of his oil slicked cabinet colleagues like Jackman - has made it his mission to bring fishermen to their knees. Partly because its what the seafood producers want and partly because McCurdy made him look bad on tv (not hard to do). Anytime fishermen or the union object to the sell-out of their industry, King's smug little face pops up on tv with his well-rehearsed excuse that the big bad international market made him do it. Unfortunately fishermen lack an effective leader who can take King on when he plays the globalization card. (McCurdy is a capable guy but his own membership is deeply divided and he has not be able to do what is needed - establish a broad based political constituency across rural Newfoundland that can pose a direct threat to the Dunderdale government.) It is ironic that the reigning Tories have almost succeeded in convincing the public that something so disastrous as Muskrat is economically viable, while the investment of a tiny fraction of that back into a traditional renewable industry - one that goes to the very core of this provinces existence - is not. As Henry Demoine points out (High Liner being one of the more straightforward fish companies in this province in recent years), the reason for choosing Newport News, Virginia, over Burin was that the former is a much more modern fish plant. The difference is that the State of Virginia is well known for its aggressiveness, not only in attracting new industry, but investing public funds directly in the modernization and automation of existing ones so they can compete with low cost labour regions like China. The bottom line is that as long as politicians are able to divide and conquer the rural Newfoundland vote, which they have done quite effectively for some time now, fishermen and their economically depressed communities will get nothing but the back of their hand.

  • Joseph McGrath
    May 04, 2012 - 19:50

    The close out procedure will go like the many other examples already on the closed books of other companies who shut down in NL business history.There will be the public announcement,the schocked reaction,the media reports,the blame game for about 3-4 weeks in the media and then a small government one -two year program to placate the workers.The buildings will be boarded up and people will move on with their lives.This film is all to familiar in NL and I am suprised that people and elected reps fail to acknowledge they saw it all before.Wise up folks,it is the SAME OLD, SAME OLD RE RUN!!!No one can change the script or its ending.I have no suggestions for the souls who will lose their jobs except to say that you will and now have plenty of company and you certainly face some really difficult choices in the year ahead.Government has to stop this so called "COMMITTEE HELP LINE"of officials they will set up.Surely people realize by now that when there is a real problem the only solution ever offered is a committee.Such Fools who will serve on it are HELPLESS and USELESS to those who lose their employment and way of life.The big part of the solution that is first essential is for the workers and community residents to ACCEPT that the fish plant is gone and act asp to ADAPT.Tough decisions may mean school for a few,relocation for many more and finally the various public teet social programs for others.Leave this place if you can and seek work in Canada where to be a Canadian means you get a right to earn a decent living and share in the benefits of the ROC.NL is quickly becoming a retirement home and if you think it is anything else whip off those ROSE COLORED glasses because it is.Many of us are too long in the tooth to get out,but others should view this as their time,their opportunity.GO FOR IT!!!!!!Seek your fortune elsewhere where you will be at least treated as a citizen rathen than a puppet of big business and even bigger government SICKING AND FRIGHTENING!!!!.

  • Seconds the Business Man
    May 04, 2012 - 17:20

    The Business Man is right.......Why should you people sit home all winter collecting EL and everyone else works....Do what alot of us have done..when there was no work we went and found it...I am a true blue newfoudlander and i dont work in the fishery, but I have flown for days to go to work. Stop spending out tax dollars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Your Attitude
    May 04, 2012 - 15:35

    'BUSINESS MAN" said "In the end may the interests of the majority of citizens be served to exploit the people's resources". Again you want the people's resources to benefit "you" and your business and the rest of the Merchants, but you don't want the fish resource to benefit the thousand of fishers whose industry was built on the fish resource over a couple of centuries. The fishers and those who work indirectly for the fishery probably represent the majority of workers in Newfoundland and Labrador. Why is it your hell bent on destroying the fishers way of life? AND Why is it your not concerned about the Europeans who come to our waters from 3000 miles away, under the auspices of Ottawa and fish our waters annually, simply because they say they have historical status? You say nothing about Ottawa utilizing the fish quotas to garner trade from that while Newfoundland and Labrador fishers have to suffer from a lack of quota, simply because the foreign countries fish and over fish those waters. You "Business Man" care about you and you only and that sickening attitude of the Crony Capitalist Society is destroying today's economies that were built centuries ago. If this attitude prevails much longer everything will collapse, solid economies cannot exist with 94% of the World's wealth in the Bank Accounts of 6% of the World's Wealthiest citizens/Merchants. Your attitude is very myopic and it is the very reason we have had so many economic and financial crashes/collapses over the past 40 years in the Western World. The fishers have plied their trade for centuries and they managed to eke out a living without the problems they have experienced over the past 63 years since the Ottawa government got involved. It is time we got back to where we were before Ottawa took over.

  • Some people have absolutely no business acumen and You Made My Point is one of them.
    May 04, 2012 - 12:56

    YOU MADE MY POINT Sir or Madam: You have ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS ACUMEN, if you believe that a place like Newfoundland and Labrador which has been around for 550 years and has yet to grow an economy should export out its natural resources so that others can grow economies. We have first to think of ourselves and after our own Newfoundland and Labrador economy is established then what resources are left over we can sell in the raw state, for others to assist their economies. That is the only logical thing to do, for anyone to say other than that has not got his/her thinking cap on.

    • a business man
      May 04, 2012 - 13:39

      I do beleive that resources from NL should be used to grow other economies IF this can provided a net benefit to the majority of NL citizens. For example, if destroying the jobs of 10,000 fishermen leads to better health care for 500,000 NL citizens, then I am all for it. It can happen if we let the merchants and processors do what they want so they can make the most amount of money, and then in turn pay more taxes. I am only advocating for my interests, as a citizens and taxpayer. You are free to do the same. I will use my vote and my money according to my interests. I expect that you will do the same with your vote and money. In the end, may the interests of the majority of citizens be served.

  • you made my point
    May 04, 2012 - 11:38

    you are wrong. there are many other places that allow their resources to be exported unprocessed. If anything, we need to do it too to be fair. After all, if I as a Canadian can open a business and export raw resources from another country, then foreign businessmen should have the right to do the same in Canada. My money has nothing to do with the resources of Newfoundland and Labrador, simply because the workforce is too entitled. Instead, I invest in offshore resources. I create resource extraction jobs in other countries, where the workers understand that they are just workers.

  • sealcove
    May 04, 2012 - 10:07

    Some of the people bitching need to get of the island for a year or more to find out how the real world works

    • a business man
      May 04, 2012 - 13:20


    May 04, 2012 - 10:00

    To the two business people here, Im certainly not buying your products and I won't work for you! You obviously are not true blue newfoundlanders, or cket fulyou wouldn't say such things, or you were born in the city where you didn't have to rely on the fishery to make a living! You're the kind of people that are going to have this province doomed, and walk away with you pocket full! Will you live to enjoy your money????

    • McLovin
      May 04, 2012 - 13:32

      I am a true blue Newfoundlander but a lot of what the Business Man is saying makes sense. I've got news for all you "True Blue" Newfoundlanders on here, Newfoundland has been a poor province for 100 years, meaning we've done an awful job of managing our resources and our economy. Sure, the last 10 years or so things have turned around but that has nothing to do with the fishery or any of the other "True Blue" industries that have existed in the Province. The government should not be stepping in to save industries that are dying or already dead. The market will balance itself out. I know a lot of people are going to lose their jobs but we've been doing things this way forever and IT'S NOT WORKING!! We have to try a different approach or this is just going to keep happening.

    • a business man
      May 04, 2012 - 13:33

      you are right....i don't rely on the fishery to make a living. that is precisely why I oppose tax dollars being used on the fishery, and why in turn I am now completely anti-fishery. even if you disagree with me (which is your right), I further argue a major problem with NL is that the majority of citizens of NL do not rely on the fishery yet have been paying for its survival through their hard earned tax dollars. Why should we pay for the fishery (the never ending EI, the subsidies, grants and so on) when we get nothing for it? When will the madness end? All I am suggesting is that if the majority of citizens don't rely on the fishery to make a living, then tax dollars should not be spent on the fishery in anyway. Furthermore, I suggest that if, in any way, allowing processors to process NL fish in foreign countries results in more taxes in our coffers, then I am all for it. The fishery should be used to benefit the citizens of NL, not just the fishermen. If cutting the NL fishmen out leads to better health and social services to a greater number of NL citizens, then the government has a duty to serve the majority. After all, is that not democracy. Again, you are free to disagree, but my view is the view of a citizens, taxpayer and voter.

  • SolutionsMan
    May 04, 2012 - 09:50

    The best thing for the Newfoundland Fishery is that all the fishermen and boats GO CO-OPERATIVE!!!!!!!!!!! where everyone makes a profit together! If the government is concerned about the fishery then, supply loans to the fishermen for boats and plant take-overs, and lets get this right! Don't let the BIG MULTI Millionnaire like P----Ys get all the gravy - it's our bread and butter! Stealing from them to fill their own pockets! CO-OPERATIVE HERE I COME!!! I HOPE IT HAPPENS! BOOT THE OTHERS!

    • BBI
      May 04, 2012 - 11:29

      I rather like your suggestion about Co-Ops but wouldn't give one dime to anyone who purchased/built any kind of fishing boat since the Moratorium. As for more loans, forget it. Outside EI it's probably the main reason we're where we are today, vote catching loans.

  • Newfoundland and Labrador's fish should be processed here, and its shipbuilding should be done here
    May 04, 2012 - 09:41

    To "A BUSINESS MAN" I see you are still here with your anti-Newfoundland and Labrador rant. What you are advocating no other province or country in the World would allow to happen. Every other place values it raw natural resources too much to send them off for someone else to process. They also value their shipbuilding industry too much to send off their work for some other place with shipbuilding facilities to gain the industry and the jobs. I suspect you are A Business Man who is probably filling his pockets from the avails of the resources of Newfoundland and Labrador, or if the shoe were on the other foot you would not be espousing that Newfoundland and Labrador's natural resources and contracts for shipbuilding be sent off shore.

    • Eli
      May 04, 2012 - 10:13

      If McCurdy thinks this and other plants are so successful why doesn't the union sink some of their millions into them and operate them? Labour costs here are just too high. The perks the union rejected in Marystown would bowl you over. Shipbuilding in Marystown is also suspect. They produce quality work but at what price? Bottom line in all this is the companies are doing what the government has been advocating for years but it would be political suicide to do it. Just ask Cyyde Jackman about the M.O.U. he sat on for over a year. McCurdy's union was complicit in that document.

  • a business man
    May 04, 2012 - 09:07

    We send our fish offshore because a) customers in other parts of the world want their fish whole, and b) because there are workers in the USA, in China, in latin American who can do the same work for less money? As a consumer, I would rather have a foreigner process the fish if it means I can buy it for less. I support cutting out the NL fishermen if customers get a lower price. The fish is owned by the people of the province, not by the fishermen. they fish is to benefit everyone, and I argue that citizens will get a greater benefit by having the fish processed offshore. Same goes with the ships....sure we could build them in NL, but as a taxpayer, I support building the ships offshore it is saves money. I do not want to may a penny more to put NL workers to work. I want to pay as little as possible. Really, there is nothing that a NL worker can do that a worker from another part of the world can do, so why should a company or the taxpayer pay more for the NL worker's labour when cheaper foreign labour provides better value for money. Frankly, I applaud the government for looking at offshore options, as offshore production is ultimately in the best interests of the taxpayer..

  • Why do we send off shore our coveted fish resource for processing and contracts for others to build our ferries?
    May 04, 2012 - 08:25

    Any fool can give away a coveted protein fish resource or contracts to build ferries. What are those dodo's of the ruling party at Confederation Building thinking about to keep on giving away our resources? They know this hasn't worked in the past and it won't work in the future. Ontario and some of the other provinces, like Nova Scotia have no natural resources, they depend on getting their raw resources from a province like Newfoundland and Labrador and they know how to build industry from it. What is the matter with Newfoundland and Labrador politicians, they seem to have no brain cells, otherwise why would they give away our natural resources and contracts on projects that could be built here? AND Even though the Newfoundland and Labrador Treasury may be flushed with cash as Finance Minister Tom Marshall says, and we may have one of the best GDPs in Canada, our infrastructure is falling down around our ankles, we have no industry here and we have the highest Unemployment Rate in Canada. Get a Plan in place and do what your electorate expects of you Premier Dunderdale. And please do not send your MHAs out to the Radio Shows to defend the undefencable moves your government is making.

  • John
    May 04, 2012 - 08:05

    Mr. King knows well how this will go. They will come up with a plan to "retrain people that may have little chance of employment due to age." That lets the government sleep at night knowing the really didn't do anything at all except dismiss the fishery once again. Whatever happend to adjanceny which costs nothing. Why is the government saying unless processed here the fish will stay in the water as they said about the nickel and the processing in labrador. Vale Inco also had plants that they coudl have shipped raw product to without spending millions of dollars in long harbour. The government stood its ground now. I guess there are no fighting Newfoundlanders in this group we have now.

  • Who made the decision to sell-off Fishery Products and Why?
    May 04, 2012 - 07:56

    A well known Fishery Activist for years now, before and since the sell-off of Fishery Products contended that it should never have been allowed and that it was going to bring havoc to the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. That has come to past and I would like to see that deal investigated to see if corruption was a part of that sale, no different than Quebec Engineering Firm SLC Lavalin is being investigated today. We were told the ones involved got hundreds of millions of dollars from the escalating stock price in that Company during the sell-off era. A Nova Scotia Fishing Firm was the winner and became the primary beneficiary of the lucrative Fish Marketing Arm AND a private Newfoundland and Labrador Company also got to control another part of the company's resources. For the past 10 years of rule in Newfoundland and Labrador, the fishery has been neglected as if it were a scourge resource, while in reality it is the most coveted resource in the whole World and the World is allowed to come to the fishing waters of Newfoundland and Labrador's Grand Banks under the auspicies of our Mother Government Ottawa. I for one want an investigation into what transpired there, who made the decision to sell off that jewel in the Newfoundland and Labrador Crown, who made the Millions and why it was allowed to happen.

    • a business man
      May 04, 2012 - 09:11

      Well, I for one and perfectly happy with the way things are, and consider the fishery as a minor, minuscule, insignificant part of our economy. There are too many fish plants and too many fish workers. I actually hope for the complete failure and death of the fishery, because as a taxpayer, I want the "seasonal fishing then EI" lifestyle to stop, and the only way it can stop is if the fishery dies.

  • james
    May 04, 2012 - 07:17

    Why do they get government help. When other people lose jobs, what do they get???? Lucky to get EI. NOT the fishermen or plant workes, they get retrained ,handouts and so on. So sick of people in fishery getting handouts. I work offshore and if my rig leaves ,what do I get, SFA.