LA SCIE Workers at a local fish plant operated by the Daley Brothers crowded into the cafeteria of the facility Thursday to hear about their future, and it could be a bleak one.
The processing plant in the Baie Verte Peninsula community could be facing a closure amid a crab sale dispute.
The company said it cannot find enough fishermen to supply the plant.
However, before and after the meeting there was crab being loaded into a truck outside the fish plant for shipment to another fish plant.
Plant worker Daisy Bishop of La Scie is afraid she may have to move.
“I don’t want to go away, I’m 62 years old and my husband is 64 this year,” she said.
“I have family in Halifax, we may have to go away, but I hope we can stick it out for another year.”
La Scie Mayor Paul Toms understands the complaint of the owners to a point, but still he agrees with local fishermen who say there is still a lot of product coming into the town and blame the company for what is happening.
Meanwhile, the Western Star spoke with a number of people who say there are fishermen and local businesses that are owed money.
No one would speak on the record, but numbers as high as $75,000 were spoken.
No one from the Daley Brothers was returning phone calls Thursday.
“No one trusts this company; they’ve made promises that they can’t deliver on,” said Toms. “This is devastating for our town, but we have to keep our heads up and try and find another operator for this plant, that’s our top priority right now.”
La Scie resident Jean Thomas has been working at the plant for 38 years and fears she’ll have to move.
“I figured I might get another couple years here, but that might not happen,” said Thomas. “People are worried about their future, most people here are between 50 and 60, what can they do?”
The news came in the same week that the federal government announced possible changes to the Employment Insurance (EI) program that could force EI recipients to work while they are receiving EI payments. Thomas said the potential changes are not realistic.
“A lot of us don’t have the education to move on, some of us have Grade 8, 9, 10,” she said. “I have Grade 8, where do I go with that?”
Eight-year fish plant worker Jackie Rice said she is in her forties, and could end up in Fort McMurray with her family, who moved out there some time ago.
“I could go away if I got to, but I don’t want to,” said Rice. “It’s sad to see this town go down like this, there won’t be any businesses or money to provide anything and people are moving.”
Shoe Cove fisherman Jim Foster said his wife works at the plant, and the loss if income will have a big effect on his family household budget.
“I’d like to see another company take this over, but I don’t know if that will happen,” he said. “My wife works here, she brings in her money and she gets her EI so if we lose that, it won’t be good.”
FFAW representative Will Reid called the meeting “frustrating.”
“We know people were expecting work and we know that the company doesn’t have the product,” he said. “We are hoping that the company will put whatever product they have through the plant to create work.”
Reid said part of the problem is that there are less resources being caught in zone 3K, where he said most of the crab comes from. But the La Scie plant could have options for other products if the right operator could be found.
“The plant could handle caplin, herring, mackerel,” he said. “It’s a good plant with a very efficient work force.”
The mayor said the local business community is very concerned about the plant’s future, he himself runs a local bar.
Businesses surveyed by The Western Star said they either could not or would not comment, but all said this could be the worst thing to happen to La Scie.
The fish plant employs over 300 people but in its heyday employed over 750, and has been in place since the 1960s.