$2.5M set aside for plant workers ahead of possible fishery downturn
With a quota cut, plant jobs will likely be affected, says Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne
The Newfoundland and Labrador government says it's setting aside funds to help workers who may face job losses in the event of a downturn or quota cuts in the fishery.
Ministers Gerry Byrne and Graham Letto announced the $2.5 million for a plant worker assistance program on Monday, just a week before the Liberal government is set to release its latest budget — ahead of a pending provincial election.
The funding announcement Monday will be included in the 2019 budget, details of which won't be released until April 16.
This money will be used to help "displaced workers find new employment, if required," meaning it will become available in the event of quota cuts and job losses only.
Workers who don't reach the number of hours required to qualify for Employment Insurance will be topped up by the government, according to Byrne.
"One of the criticisms in the past, and this is what we heard from many, many community leaders and leaders in the fishing industry, and it's that, 'You waited until the crisis hit and then you started to set up the solution.' We're not doing this. We won't do this. We'll set up the solution proactively," he said.
Byrne said the provincial government has heard from the industry that reactive problem-solving in the wake of a quota cut doesn't work, and that's why they want to have money already set aside just in case.
Snow crab quotas
Byrne, land resources and fisheries minister, said this strategy was established when his department received early indicators that there would be "dramatically larger" cuts to snow crab quotas.
"We take some level in comfort that the crab quota reductions for 2019 were not of the magnitude that was originally forecasted," Byrne said.
"[But] we did come in with a nine per cent reduction of crab resources overall for the entire province."
The consequences of that reduction in the amount of crab being landed will likely be felt in the fish plants, Byrne said, and workers may need to find additional work to qualify for EI. That's where this pot of money would come in.
Byrne added that while volume is down, the landed value is up, with a price of $5.38 a pound.
The workers have to be currently employed, or employed in 2018, at an operating fish plant, said Letto, minister of municipal affairs and the environment.
This same project was in place last year, with 120 workers availing of the funds to the tune of $900,000 in government support.
- A previous version of this story said the $2.5 million was for retraining. It is, in fact, to help fish plant workers find additional work in order to help qualify for EI.Apr 08, 2019 2:45 PM NT