Nfld. & Labrador

Protesters rally at OCI headquarters

About 150 protesters gathered at Ocean Choice International headquarters in Paradise Tuesday to rally against the company.

Labour leaders, opposition politicians address crowd

Labour leaders and opposition politicians addressed dispaced fish plant workers at Ocean Choice's head office in Paradise on Tuesday. (Rob Antle/CBC)

About 150 protesters gathered at Ocean Choice International headquarters in Paradise Tuesday to rally against the company.

Former fish plant workers bussed in from Port Union and Marystown to hear labour leaders and opposition politicians deliver broadsides against OCI.

George Feltham, an inshore fisherman and a vice-president with the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, condemned the company.

"This is not only an attack on plants, this is an attack on the fishery as a whole," Feltham said.

FFAW president Earle McCurdy said the industry is at a "fundamental turning point" right now.

More than 150 people, waving placards and chanting slogans, protested at OCI headquarters on Tuesday. (Rob Antle/CBC)

He said the fight against plant closures must continue.

"The company, the union and the provincial government have a responsibility to leave no stone unturned to do everything possible to save those jobs, save those plants, save those communities," McCurdy said.

'Moaned, whined and sooked'

Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour president Lana Payne slammed the company, saying Ocean Choice "moaned, whined and sooked" about a request from the provincial government for more information.

On Monday, OCI officials said that critical comments by Fisheries Minister Darin King were hurting the company's reputation with its global clientele.

But Payne said the real damage came when OCI laid off 400 people at its Port Union and Marystown facilities weeks before Christmas.

Workers want the shuttered fish plants reopened. They also want the government to deny OCI's request for exemptions to ship unprocessed fish out of the province.

The company is promising to nearly double the number of jobs at its fish plant in Fortune, and make those jobs year round, if the province grants its request.

The government has already turned down OCI's request for permanent exemptions, but no decision has been made on temporary ones.

Protesters propped placards against the OCI headquarters building at the end of Tuesday's rally. (Rob Antle/CBC)

The company is sharing information with the government, and a decision on that could be made within weeks.

Opposition reaction

The leaders of the province's two opposition parties spoke in support of the protesters' cause.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball accused the Tory administration of lacking vision on the fishery.

"This Dunderdale government has not been proactive, nor have they been creative," Ball said. "They have not been strong advocates for strenghtening our fishery."

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said Fisheries Minister Darin King took a step in the right direction when he turned down OCI's request for permanent exemptions last week, but pledged to keep his feet to the fire.

"The resource belongs to the people," Michael said.