The P. Janes & Sons Ltd. crab plant is one of three seafood processing facilities across the island being closed, leaving about 300 out of work province wide. In Jackson’s Arm, about 80-100 received pink slips.
Two other P. Janes-operated processing facilities in Hant’s Harbour, on the Avalon Peninsula, and Salvage, on the Eastport Peninsula were also shut down.
Bill Barry, president of the Barry Seafood Group which announced its purchase of P. Janes on Monday, reportedly said there could be opportunities for the displaced workers at his company, which is purchasing the equipment in the closed plants.
“This is the beginning of the end of this area if we don’t find a way to bring some form of industrialization here,” said fish harvester Neville Lane of Sop’s Arm.
Lane is a councillor for the area and said several residents held positions at the now defunct crab plant. He said a lack of high-speed Internet, which plagues several areas across the province, severely limits the ability of small communities like White Bay to attract business when large closures take place.
“We’re trying to bring in new business,” Lane said. “But it’s the same thing every time — there’s no high-speed Internet and companies can’t set up. Communication is everything today.”
He said the impact of the crab plant closure will be devastating. Stores could close as a result, as well as a gas station. If people choose to move to find work, school enrolment will shrink.
“People still have mortgages here,” said Lane. “Those in larger centres don’t realize that people here will have to find work outside the province in order to service their debt back home. If we lose people, the larger areas lose customers too.”
Linda Osmond of Jackson’s Arm has worked at the crab plant for 22 years, and admitted to being shocked.
“I’m not really sure what I’m going to do. I have a son still in school here,” said Osmond. “Unless someone else comes in and takes the plant over, there just isn’t anything else to do here.”
Longtime P. Janes & Sons employee Teresa Pittman said she’s been working for the company for 39 years, having moved up from crab shucker to quality control manager. Monday night, she said, was a sleepless one.
“I’m only just now starting to realize how the rug has been swept out from under me. I really don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said. “In being realistic about it, I know I’m capable of doing a lot of different jobs, but this is a job I’ve done all my life.”
Jackson’s Arm Mayor Claude Jones said he was also surprised by the closure, and hopes to meet with his council soon to discuss the town’s options.
“I thought it would slow down, but I didn’t think they’d close it,” said Jones. “This is going to have a big effect. The town is losing a lot of (jobs and taxes) and we’re going to have to figure something out.”
Council will meet about the plant closure sometime over the next two weeks, he added.