Perfect plant, wrong location

Paul Herridge
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Burin union president holding out hope someone else will buy facility

The Burin fish plant. — TC Media file photo

It seems one key factor killed the Burin secondary fish processing plant.                        Cathy Dimmer, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union local at the facility, said the operation had a lot going for it, but also one critical knock.

“We’ve been told we’ve got the perfect plant, but we’re in the wrong location,” Dimmer said.

“They say we’ve got the perfect workforce. The union has a good relationship with the company.”

Not only that, but the average employee age is 54, she said, relatively low compared to many other fish plants in the province.

Friday, after about 70 years in operation, the Burin fish plant, currently owned and operated by Nova Scotia-based High Liner Foods Inc., was scheduled to close — likely for good, unless a new buyer/operator can be found.

Five-year minimum

High Liner acquired the Burin facility, along with other assets, during the breakup and sale of Fishery Products International (FPI) in late 2007.

As part of its agreement with the provincial government, the company agreed to operate the plant for a minimum of five years, which is now about to expire.

Among the other assets High Liner purchased was FPI’s profitable marketing arm, responsible for the three-decades-old Seafood Elites line, which, Dimmer said, it would be sending to the United States, as well as the award-winning nuggets product that was created as part of a pilot project in the early 1980s.

Dimmer said her understanding is the plant has been put up for sale. She said she believes High Liner had no intention of staying longer than the five years.

Disappointment aside, she tempered her comments with a few compliments for the company, noting High Liner put off a Christmas turkey dinner for 150 people at the Burin plant earlier this month.

“It is a good company to work for. I wouldn’t be able to say nothing bad about them. They’re certainly helping in regards of the plant closure, anything that we need.”

Meeting production levels

Dimmer said there’s a “penalty fund,” estimated to be as high as $2.5 million, that the company had to pay into it if it did not meet certain production levels annually. That is now supposed to be paid out to workers, she said, although there were issues recently with how it will work in relation to employment insurance.

She said the penalty amount was small initially, but grew with each subsequent year, foreshadowing the company’s eventual intentions.

“Some people was going to have to use some of that for medical. Some of them are on very expensive drugs here. Terrible really, when you think about it. People are here wondering what they’re going to do.”

Meanwhile, Dimmer said she has met in the past with government officials, including Burin-Placentia West MHA Clyde Jackman, regarding future possibilities for the facility, and she plans to do so again.

“No one’s to say it got to be fish. It could be anything. It’s a good facility.”

The Southern Gazette

Organizations: Fishery Products International, Burin union, Allied Workers High Liner Foods Inc.

Geographic location: Burin, United States

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Recent comments

  • H JEFFORD
    December 16, 2012 - 12:33

    The fish quota and fish plant should stay where the are,If High Liner Foods don't want to operate it there someone els will.

  • Frank Tock
    December 15, 2012 - 11:42

    The days of the stamp-factories and the 40-week paid vacations are done. Good riddance.

  • Concerned Newfie
    December 15, 2012 - 11:41

    I have a very grave concern for the fishery of NL. My father was a fisherman all of his life and died at the age of 86. The fishery sustained us - my great grandfather, grandfather, my father and us as a family of 11. The NL government is letting all the fishery go out the window. Why are all these fish plants closing down - frankly because the processers have become greedy, and the government doesn't give one hoot about the small guy the worker - the bread earner of the family. The government is more concerned about the big companies like O- I and the group - these companies are the contributors to the Party - scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. This company has become too rich on the backs of NL and uses his political clouth!!! Amazing! The Government is only thinking about those inside the overpass quite frankly, and they are letting the Rural Areas die out on purpose, so there goes the communities, the fishery and forestry, just to have the Inner Circle of the Overpass become bigger, more expensive to live in, and letting the very fabric of NL Community Culture die out for their own gains and purposes. It's time for all Newfoundlanders that consider themselves in Rural Areas to search for Rural Supporters to take over government and have our NL culture!!!!!!!!!!! Don't allow foreigners to come in and change our whole world with their junk! AS NEWFOUNDLANDERS AND LABRADORIANS LETS STAND UP FOR OUR PROVINCE AND OUR RURAL AREAS! WHY SHOULD WE MOVE WITHIN THE INNER CIRCLE OF THE OVERPASS! THAT'S MY STORY AND I'M STICKING TO IT!! ARE YOU???? IF NOT, WE'LL DIE IN THE BIG CITY AND NO ONE, NO ONE WILL CARE! LETS PUT THE FIGHT ON! COME ON BAY-MEN! LET's DO IT!!!!!! GOD BLESS!

  • RATTER
    December 15, 2012 - 11:08

    The employees did this to themselves. Everytime you turned around they had something to complain about. They were never satisfied, now look where it has gotten them. Merry Christmas.

  • Dwayne Cull
    December 15, 2012 - 10:36

    There is only one reason why fish plants are closing all over Newfoundland and Labrador ... 50 cents an hour wages in China ... It's no more complicated than that!! Plant in the wrong location? BS

  • david
    December 15, 2012 - 09:26

    Note to FFAW, and all the other intellectually challenged: if a plant is in the wrong location, it is not a "perfect plant" ---- it is a white elephant. And after years of government interference and political meddling in the fishery, most plants in Newfoundland were decreed to be built or sustained in the very worst of wrong places...completely for short-term political expediency. And besides the less-than-complicated purpose of extending politicans' careers, this approach has been a pathetic, predictable disaster.