Nfld. & Labrador

Port Union in limbo after fish plant closure

Some residents of Port Union say they'll fight to make sure Ocean Choice International doesn't profit from their loss after the company announced Friday the town's fish plant was one of two plants in Newfoundland and Labrador to permanently close.
The fish plant in Port Union has been closed since Hurricane Igor struck the community in September 2010.

Some residents of Port Union say they'll fight to make sure Ocean Choice International doesn't profit from their loss after the company announced Friday the town's fish plant was one of two plants in Newfoundland and Labrador to permanently close.

The plant in the community on Newfoundland's Bonavista Peninsula employees 170 people and has been closed since September 2010 when Hurricane Igor struck the town and damaged the building.

News of the permanent closure of the plant, announced by OCI president Martin Sullivan at a news conference Friday, came as a shock to the area.

"Sometimes things that are broken cannot be fixed, especially when all the critical factors are beyond our own control," said president Martin Sullivan.

Former employees of the Port Union plant said it's not fair that the plant will be shut down while OCI plans to invest more than $5 million in the coming years to upgrade its other plants in Bonavista, Triton, Port au Choix, St. Lawrence and Fortune.

"What I'm saying is that it's Port Union's money and they shouldn't be allowed to do it. We will disrupt OCI and we'll possibly do things to disrupt government," said Jim Dalton, a former employee at the Port Union fish plant.

Dalton and other former employees said the plant, that's been open for decades in the town, is the area's only employer and its closure will force people out of the area to find employment.

"I'm 59-years-old, I'll be 60 come February. For me to turn around now and make a move and buy a new house, I can't afford to make the mortgage payments," Dalton told CBC News.

Dalton said the decision of whether to leave or stay will be a tough one. Since the Port Union plant was shut down, Dalton moved to Labrador City to work but said he only lasted in the town for six weeks because he couldn't afford to stay.

Majorie Diamond of Port Union lives next door to the plant and said most of her family members were employees of the OCI plant for generations.

"It's hard to look at the plant. You miss the people," said Diamond, who has retired from the plant.

Diamond said her son and daughter were both employed by the plant, but when the damages weren't repaired, they were forced to move to Port Au Choix on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula to work at the OCI fish plant there.

The plants in Marystown and Port Union are slated to close immediately.

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