Wednesday, January 11, 2012



It is a very old story out in Newfoundland way. Fish processing companies come and go, opening, closing and reopening elsewhere. All, of course, to keep labour costs as low as possible no matter what the effect on local communities.

The Ocean Choice International company is cut from the usual cloth. They have recently laid off 400 workers in Port Union and Marystown. This has come along with a "request" to the Newfoundland government to grant the company permanent exemption to ship fish outside of the province for processing. In return the company "promises" to double the number of jobs in Fortune, another fishing community, and by some miracle make them year around. The likelihood of them holding to this promise is about the same as a snowball gambling in the netherworld.

Laid off workers and their supporters gathered at the Paradise Newfoundland headquarters of Ocean Choice to voice their own demands. The workers are represented by the CAW affiliated Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union. Look to their website for more news of this dispute. Here's the basic story from the CBC. Molly has to say that she is doubtful about the good faith of the opposition politicians who addressed the rally.

Protesters rally at OCI headquarters
Labour leaders, opposition politicians address crowd
By Rob Antle, CBC News
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.

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