New Brunswick lobster processors say changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program will force them to move jobs out of the province.

The federal government imposed restrictions on the program to curtail alleged abuses that left Canadian workers jobless.

Russel Jacob, president and owner of Westmoreland Fisheries, has his workers catch crab and lobster in Cap-Pelé. The seafood is processed and packaged locally.

Jacob said that capping the number of foreign workers he can hire under the program could damage his business. It would force a dramatic choice. “Ship the jobs out or shut down our operations,” he said Wednesday.

“Probably closing our facilities, looking elsewhere to process, like Maine, or shipping overseas.”

There aren't enough local workers to fill those jobs, he said. The long hours and irregular shifts make it hard to attract and retain Canadians.

Long, hard hours

Fisherman Roger Landry understands the value of temporary foreign workers at processing plants.

“They need those people because there's a lot of work around here. They're working seven days a week, 14 to 15 hours a day, so if they don't have it I don't know what's going to happen. They're going to have to shut down,” he said.

Jerry Armirault, president of the Lobster Processors Association of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, agreed the crackdown would hurt his members.

“Pack it, put it in a reefer container, and have it shipped overseas, whether it's China or some of the other countries in southeast Asia that do work like this,” he said.

Jody Carr, New Brunswick's minister of post secondary education, training and labour, said he’s lobbying Ottawa.

“We’ve been talking to our federal ministers. We've been letting them know of the challenges we have in New Brunswick,” he said.