A bright light for New Harbour
The news in the province’s seafood processing sector in recent years has been generally negative. Some might say downright dreadful.
No less than seven fish plants have permanently closed, others are teetering on the brink, the workforce is aging and rates of pay are barely above minimum wage. Let’s not forget the seasonal nature of the industry, and the yearly struggle by workers to acquire enough hours to qualify for employment insurance benefits.
Despite these challenges, the Trinity Conception region appears to be somewhat of a bright spot. It’s been estimated, for example, that upwards of 1,000 people are gainfully employed at processing plants in Bay de Verde and Old Perlican. And we all took notice of the headlines generated recently after it was disclosed that 20 temporary foreign workers from Thailand were on the job in Bay de Verde.
And based on what we discovered last week in New Harbour, the light may soon be burning even brighter in this region.
The Daley Brothers have purchased the two plants in New Harbour from Fred Woodman Jr., and appears to be placing all their bets on this operation. Workers have already enjoyed longer periods of work as historically high amounts of crab is processed at the shellfish plant.
In an interview last week, Woodman expressed unwavering confidence in the future of the plants, and the new owners. He acknowledged it was time for him to go, and that he was taking no pride in struggling each year to provide work to his employees.
By opening the door to the Daley Brothers, it appears Woodman has assured that yet another generation of fish plant workers in the region will be able to toil in the industry.
There’s one important piece of the puzzle left to be put in place. The Daley Brothers have applied to the province’s licensing board for permission to transfer its shrimp processing licence from St. Joseph’s, St. Mary’s Bay to New Harbour. The St. Joseph’s plant, which employed about 100 people, burned to the ground late last year.
These types of request have been very controversial in the past, but this circumstance is different, and the province should approve the request. Why? For one, many of those who once worked at the St. Joseph’s plant now have jobs in New Harbour. And don’t expect the Daley Brothers to rebuild the plant in St. Joseph’s. It’s not going to happen.
By consolidating its operations in New Harbour, bolstered by the shrimp licence, the company’s business will be more viable, and workers can expect to be on the job for many more weeks each year. How can you argue against that? Many have been saying that consolidation is a necessary step for the processing sector, and here’s an opportunity that should not be missed.
— Terry Roberts