Nfld. & Labrador

FFAW proposed closing Fortune plant, OCI charges

Ocean Choice International says the fisheries union is clandestinely backing the closure of a fish plant in Fortune while taking a different stance in public.

Ocean Choice president Martin Sullivan says union clandestinely backed Marystown at Fortune's expense

Ocean Choice International is ratcheting up the ongoing war of words with the fisheries union, accusing it of clandestinely backing the closure of OCI’s plant in Fortune while taking a different stance in public.

Martin Sullivan, Ocean Choice International's CEO, alleges that the FFAW is clandestinely calling for the Fortune fish plant to be closed. (CBC)

OCI president Martin Sullivan told On Point with David Cochrane that the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union favoured a joint bid with the company to keep the Marystown facility open.

"They proposed to us that we should shut down Fortune, we should move the Fortune operations to Marystown," Sullivan said. "We should go hand-in-hand to government, and look for $10 million to build a new plant in Marystown."

According to Sullivan, FFAW leadership — including union president Earle McCurdy, secretary-treasurer Dave Decker and industrial director Greg Pretty — made the proposal to the company, on more than one occasion.

Earle McCurdy is president of the FFAW. (CBC)

"That’s the hypocrisy of the union," Sullivan said. "They’re out in Fortune saying we want Fortune and Marystown to operate, and they’re in telling us that we should close Fortune and move it to Marystown."

Plant closures

In December, OCI closed its plants in Port Union and Marystown.

The company then sought processing exemptions from the province.

OCI dangled the carrot of doubling its workforce in Fortune and making those jobs year-round in return for being permitted to ship unprocessed yellowtail out of the province. The government ultimately said no.

The union has been critical of the company’s moves.

On Point with David Cochrane

Watch the full interview on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. NT

Tensions were inflamed further this month, when OCI hired replacement workers to crew a company vessel, the Newfoundland Lynx. Police were called in to enforce a court order ending a union blockade of the ship.

On Thursday, union members protested at a St. John’s hotel where OCI vice-president Loyola Sullivan was keynote speaker at a business awards ceremony. The demonstrators handed out flyers bestowing their own honour — "best scab employer" — on Sullivan.