King says FFAW will be blamed if Fortune deal dies

A deal to secure 110 full-time jobs at a Burin Peninsula fish plant may be on the ropes, with Fisheries Minister Darin King pointing his finger at the FFAW.
Fisheries Minister Darin King says the government cannot proceed with a flounder export exemption for OCI without the support of the FFAW. (CBC )

A deal to secure 110 full-time jobs at a Burin Peninsula fish plant may be on the ropes, with Newfoundland and Labrador's fisheries minister warning that a collapse would be the fault of union leaders.

Ocean Choice International won unanimous support of workers at its plant in Fortune for a plan that would see OCI ship 80 per cent of its yellowtail flounder quota out of the province for processing.

In return, OCI would employ 110 people at the Fortune plant, starting in January.

FFAW president Earle McCurdy says the union is seeking an alternative proposal for the Fortune plant. (CBC)

But the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union loathes key elements of the proposal.

Fisheries Minister Darin King said the government will not proceed without the union's support.

"Do we leave the fish in the water on principle and we get no return for it? Or do we recognize that we're competing in a global marketplace and we try to get as many jobs as we can and get the fish plants open?" King told CBC News.

"Leaving the fish in the water does nothing for no one."

King said the success or failure of the deal rests with the FFAW.

"I've got to arrive at a decision based on the support we build for it and it's very difficult to do when we have one significant group — the FFAW — who are not prepared to support what's before us," he said.

But FFAW president Earle McCurdy said the union is not trying to kill the deal, but protect the interests of people who make a living from catching and processing fish.

"Those are not policies we just sort of made up, but long-standing policies of the union," he told CBC Radio's Fisheries Broadcast.

He said the FFAW has always opposed allowing outside vessels to harvest fish, and the mass export of unprocessed seafood.

McCurdy said the union is trying to find an alternative path that would also help the workers in Fortune.

"We gave the minister a fairly detailed outline of what, how we thought [a suitable] plan would be going forward," he said.

For the people in Fortune, obviously, finding a resolution here would be of tremendous importance to them."