No end to the bad news

The Compass - - OPINION -

It just keeps get­ting worse in the fish­ery, and when news broke ear­lier this month that Hant’s Har­bour-based P. Janes and Sons had sold its as­sets to the Barry Group, the sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple di­rectly im­pacted by the trans­ac­tion let out a col­lec­tive groan — not again!

The deal will mean the clo­sure of plants in Hant’s Har­bour, Jack­son’s Arm and Sal­vage. The news hit many like a tonne of frozen fish, and sent many long­time em­ploy­ees into a heartbroken down­ward spi­ral of de­spair and un­cer­tainty.

Af­ter watch­ing plant af­ter plant fall through­out the province in re­cent years, the rapid ra­tio­nal­iza­tion of the pro­cess­ing sec­tor fi­nally hit right on the doorstep of th­ese three plants.

In Hant’s Har­bour, where the com­pany had been pro­cess­ing seafood for more than eight decades, and the work­force once num­bered more than 700, many dis­placed work­ers were in a daze. Though pro­duc­tion and em­ploy­ment lev­els had grad­u­ally dwin­dled at the plant, many re­fused to ac­cept or be­lieve that such a clo­sure might be on the hori­zon.

In some cases, up to a dozen closely re­lated peo­ple worked at the plant. There are numer­ous ex­am­ples of a hus­band-and-wife los­ing their jobs, with some hav­ing com­mit­ted four decades of their lives to the plant.

But with less and less prod­uct to process, it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore some dras­tic steps were taken by the com­pany, and it was swal­lowed up by a big­ger player in the in­dus­try.

The sit­u­a­tion is not hope­less, how­ever. As was pointed out in last week’s edi­tion of The Com­pass, there are job op­por­tu­ni­ties for Hant’s Har­bour work­ers, most notably in Port de Grave, where the Barry Group owns a plant. But pro­cess­ing plants in South Dildo, New Har­bour, Old Per­li­can and Bay de Verde are also seek­ing work­ers.

But it won’t be the same. In­stead of work­ing a job just min­utes from their homes, it’s now likely that many will board a bus, travel about an hour, work a lengthy shift, and then make the re­turn jour­ney to their homes. Some ma­jor ad­just­ments will have to be made, and no one is sug­gest­ing it will be easy.

Then again, we’re talk­ing about the New­found­land fish­ery. Noth­ing has ever been easy.

— Terry Roberts

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