Nfld. & Labrador

$5M in federal help for iced-in fish harvesters, but FFAW says plant workers left out

The Liberal MP for the west coast of Newfoundland says the federal government has allocated money to compensate fish harvesters stuck in port because of heavy ice.

'It's unbelievable to me that they're being provided support while we're being left to starve'

The coast guard says it has assisted dozens of vessels this year and has warned about the dangers to fishermen. (Submitted)

A Liberal member of Parliament says the federal government has allocated up to $5 million to help fish harvesters who are stuck in port because of heavy ice.

Gudie Hutchings, MP for Long Range Mountains, said Friday the money will come under the Ice Assistance Emergency Program for eligible applicants in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Quebec.

Some fishermen have been without income for more than two months, as ice socked in the coastline.

Five fishing vessels became stuck in ice this week near La Scie. While four made it back to port, one sank.

Earlier this week, five boats became stuck in heavy ice near La Scie, causing one of the vessels to sink.

People in the area said fishing crews are desperate and the crab season in particular is slipping by.

"I thank Minister [of Fisheries and Oceans] Dominic LeBlanc for listening and acting upon every fisher's concerns as quickly as possible," Hutchings wrote in a post on Instagram late Friday afternoon.

Employment insurance for fish harvesters ran out in April.

FFAW: Plant workers left out 

But the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW) says the financial help leaves many affected people without any financial help.

"Plant workers have been just as impacted by severe ice delays as fish harvesters. Leaving these people out of the income bridging program is unacceptable," said FFAW president Keith Sullivan in a news release Friday evening.

FFAW president Keith Sullivan says plant workers are struggling just as much as fishermen due to the delays in the season caused by thick sea ice. (Cal Tobin/CBC)

Trudy Byrne, a plant worker on the Northern Peninsula, said last year plant operations began in April. 

"Harvesters can't get out in a boat to fish and they are now getting support from the government. We can't go to work because the harvesters can't get out in boat — we're in the same situation here," Byrne said in the statement released by the union.

"It's unbelievable to me that they're being provided support while we're being left to starve."

The FFAW said a committee representing plant workers from around the province "will request an urgent meeting with Premier Dwight Ball to call on the province for support."