A bright light for New Har­bour

The Compass - - OPINION -

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

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