NEW HARBOUR, NL — The Trinity South community of New Harbour is facing an unheard-of predicament, as Daley Brothers has decided not to open the local fish plant for the 2018 harvesting season.
News of the company’s intentions began to trickle through the community over the weekend after employees began receiving notices from Daley Brothers informing them of the company’s decision.
Reached by The Compass Monday afternoon, provincial Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne said he first heard from concerned workers on Saturday, April 21. The workers said they were surprised equipment at the plant was not being set up for processing as it normally would this time of year.
“Little did I know that there was actually more to the problem than what was identified to me on Saturday,” he said, noting workers who received notice were given options to work elsewhere on the island or in New Brunswick.
As of Monday afternoon, Byrne said no one in government had received any communication from Daley Brothers about its decision concerning the plant, which has primarily processed crab since the cod moratorium. Quota cuts to snowcrab announced by the federal government earlier this year have created a lot of uncertainty within the industry.
Byrne said he was disturbed by the fact Daley Brothers did not reach out to the province.
“Had we been advised that this was occurring either prior to or at least simultaneous to the information going to the workers that the plant was closing, we would have had Fisheries and Land Resources staff on the ground in New Harbour,” said the minister.
“There’s a social contract which exists,” Byrne went on to say. “It’s nothing that’s on paper, it’s not regulated, but it’s called the test of human decency. And that social contract would suggest that providing some advance notice to the government so that we can have supports on the ground when the decision is made known would be the right thing to do.”
Daley Brothers purchased the plant in 2012 from Woodland Sea Products Ltd., a locally-owned company founded to operate the New Harbour plant in 1973.
Byrne confirmed the department will utilize a program to assist workers impacted by the closure in order to obtain short-term employment. Byrne said his staff will also work with other departments to identify potential diversification opportunities to assist the local economy.
“My concern here is that with the resource shortfalls and quota cuts that we all know the federal government has imposed, we all recognize this may not be an isolated case,” the minister said. “There may be other plants in other parts of the province that may be negatively affected.”
Byrne went on to say he hopes this is not how processors will handle this sort of decision down the road if there are indeed more plant closures to come this season. He also hopes the federal government will find a way to assist workers and expects many of those workers will reach out to their local Member of Parliament.