Marystown fish plant workers worried about flounder loss
Workers who have been laid off at a southern Newfoundland fish plant are calling for government help in preventing flounder from being shipped overseas.
About 150 workers at Ocean Choice International's plant in Marystown met Monday night to talk about the company's desire for concessions, and about how OCI wants to ship much of the yellowtail flounder it catches to China.
"People are very worried," said worker Don Hannam.
"There's a lot of stress in the workplace the last two or three weeks when they were down there because they were hearing announcements."
The Fish, Food and Allied Workers union is rejecting the continuation of an exemption to shipping out 80 per cent of OCI's yellowtail flounder catch — unless workers themselves agree to it.
Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman, who also represents the district of Burin-Placentia West in the legislature, holds the same point of view.
"Final decisions around this will have to involve workers in this room because up till this point yellowtail flounder has always been associated with the Marystown facility," Jackman said.
OCI, which took over the plant when it acquired many of the assets of the former Fishery Products International in 2007, had an exemption for shipping the fish, although it expired at the end of June.
OCI says the Marystown plant needs to have new labour and financial terms in place to stay viable. The company recently lost a court fight with Marystown's town council over its tax bills, but last week said it had reached a settlement.
In a statement last week, CEO Martin Sullivan said OCI had been talking with union and government representatives "concerning the Marystown facility and it is imperative that all stakeholders work together to resolve the challenges and to secure a future for our flatfish business in Marystown."
FFAW representative Allan Moulton said the government will need to intervene.
"If there's a need to for some type of investment in the short term, to help clear the hurdles … that helps," Moulton said.