There’s fishing activity on the wharves of Twillingate but not a pound of product is being shipped to the local fish plant.
The shuttered shrimp plant, formally operated by Notre Dame Seafoods Inc., is entering its third year of closure.
John Hynes, who served as union rep for the approximately 100 workers, had nothing but disgust when talking about seafood being trucked to other plants instead of being processed locally.
While he acknowledges smaller shrimp quotas might not be enough to support the Twillingate operation, Hynes said a multi-species operation is certainly feasible.
“There’s enough product landed here to keep two plants going,” he said.
Displaced workers have been finding work elsewhere; some moved away, others found employment offloading, or at restaurants or bed-and-breakfasts.
But Hynes says there are still more than 30 people relying on government-assisted programming to see them through the hard times.
Even that’s gone now, he says.
“They’re saying there could be Job Creation Program (JCP) funding, but you still need a certain number of hours to qualify,” he said. “How are you going to be able to get the hours required when there are not enough employment opportunities around to qualify.”
Hynes said it appears the plant’s union and the provincial government have washed their hands of the situation.
“(The FFAW) stopped taking union dues and we haven’t heard talk of them since,” he said. “It seems government and union have thrown us aside.”
Jason Spingle, staff representative for the FFAW, confirmed the union no longer has any ties to the displaced workers.
He said the union did what it could to work with government and Notre Dame Seafoods to make government services available to former plant employees as long as possible, but everything comes to an end at some point.
“We helped the people who needed the help, but that’s it now,” he said. “It’s like a closed factory, people move on.”
Spingle said the fishery remains an integral part of Twillingate and he hopes fishing opportunities can foster new investment in processing.
“What we’ve said from the very beginning is that the ground fishery will continue to grow…” he said. “Twillingate is in a strategic location when it comes to cod, and we hope a place like Twillingate would be a part of that future.”
“I could say it would be great to see the shrimp return, but the more realistic opportunity I see right now is with cod, and I certainly would see Twillingate as being a part of that.”
According to the Department of Fisheries and Inland Resources, the Twillingate plant was designated as permanently closed in 2018, with 27 displaced workers receiving one-time assistance through the Fish Plant Worker Employment Support Program for workers impacted by a permanent fish plant closure. It provided a maximum of 14 weeks. Workers could also take advantage of employment counselling and supports provided by the Department of Advanced Education and Skills.
The Department added former employees of a permanently closed plant who still require assistance could also seek help through other employment programs and skills training offered by the provincial government, such as the Community Employment and Enhancement Program or the Job Creation Partnerships.
The statement indicated anyone looking for employment or training is encouraged to contact their nearest Employment Centre operated through the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour.