Nfld. & Labrador

Fortune plantworkers say work scarce, call for OCI to live up to deal

Plantworkers at the Ocean Choice International (OCI) plant in Fortune say the company is not living up to it’s promise to provide 110 year-round jobs at the groundfish processing facility in the community.
The OCI fish plant in Fortune, N.L. (CBC)

Plantworkers at the Ocean Choice International (OCI) plant in Fortune say the company is not living up to it's promise to provide 110 year-round jobs at the groundfish processing facility in the community.

In December of 2013, OCI struck a deal with the province to re-open the former FPI plant and establish the full time positions. In exchange, the provincial government relaxed minimum processing requirements to allow OCI to ship out all of its redfish and 75 per cent of its yellowtail quota in a largely unprocessed state.

But workers say the returns for the Fortune plant have been very meagre so far this year after a relatively decent year in 2014.

Karen Caines is the FFAW-Unifor plant chair for Fortune. She says she had 324 hours work up to this point in April of last year processing mostly cod at the plant.

So far this year she has 20 hours.

"We don't know what's going on this year, we can't get any satisfactory answers from the company," Caines told CBC's Fisheries Broadcast. "When the plant shut down in December we were told they had lots of fish in the system for production this year and people didn't have to worry.

"But up to this point, it hasn't panned out."

Benefits of agreement questioned

Caines says OCI had planned to process cod at the plant from January to early March, then switch over to greysole until yellowtail flounder came on line in April.

She says so far this year, the bulk of cod is coming off OCI's vessels in frozen-at-sea form and being shipped directly to market. She says speculation continues about whether or not the plant will be idled for a period of time in the summer like last year. And she says the company hasn't said what the plan is for yellowtail this year.

"They told us it would be a multi-species operation and we were also told 34 to 40 weeks per year. This year we'll be lucky to get 25 weeks," Caines said. "They've taken the cod away from his, they've taken the greysole away from us up to right now … if we're only going to be processing yellowtail, at the rate we're going right now, that doesn't look very promising for the rest of this year.

"It's time for someone to sit down and explain to us just what is in that five year agreement. Right now we are not seeing any benefit in that agreement for the workers here in Fortune."

Company responds

CBC News contacted OCI late Thursday to respond to the issues being raised in Fortune.

A company spokesperson said that "the vast majority" of cod harvested by the company this year was processed in the province.

As for the plan going forward in Fortune, the spokesperson didn't provide any set dates for a re-opening. But they said OCI's boats, "started fishing yellowtail last week and as soon as we've accumulated enough inventory the plant will be up and running."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now