St. John’s, NL, May 12, 2022 — The Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) says recent news about a possible new crab plant in St. Mary’s would result in less hours of work for those in existing facilities, and is the wrong way to build stability in the industry.
“What a new license means, in short, as the proponents of the application have said, is 200 new jobs in St. Mary’s. Well, that’s 200 jobs out of other communities in the province,” says Derek Butler, Executive Director, ASP. “If you consider the number of hours that represents, it’s something like 84,000 hours of work transferred from existing workers, and that’s not morally defensible.”
In addition to reduced work in the years ahead, Butler says new capacity further compresses the season, compounds market challenges, and goes against the recommendations of the PERT report, which recommended reinstating threshold requirements before issuing new fish processing licenses to ensure stability of the industry. The science also shows the resource is on a temporary increase, and is expected to decrease again in two to four years.
And he’s most surprised by the FFAW campaign to take work and hours from existing facilities.
“The FFAW is doubling down on denying hours to existing plant workers, many of whom they represent,” adds Butler. “The union is clearly no friend to rural NL or to crab plant workers. If I was a crab plant worker in this province, I would be asking serious questions of the union in advocating for fewer hours for the workers, in advocating for crab to be shipped to the Maritimes. Rural works is their slogan, but “less hours for you” is the mantra I keep hearing.”
Butler says the ultimate decision lies with government, whatever the Licensing Board might have recommended, and he is hopeful any possible recommendation to add new capacity will be rejected. With the existing worker shortages, a new facility just means more foreign workers, and that is not a viable rural development strategy.
“The Licensing Board chair was in the media recently, in and of itself a bit curious, but he acknowledged that the final decision is the Minister’s, and so we hope his good sense of things, and that of the government at large, will carry the day here,” says Butler.
The fishery serves as an economic driver to our provincial economy, contributing over $1.4 billion annually. In recent years, ASP members have made significant investments of over $150 million to ensure sustainability for future generations. More than 5,000 people from over 400 communities across the province are employed by ASP Member-Producers.