ST. LAWRENCE, NL – “It will be money in everybody’s pockets, for all of us.”
That was the reaction of St. Lawrence fish plant worker Tammy Stacey on Wednesday to the news that Grieg Group and Ocean Choice International (OCI) had finalized an ownership agreement.
“We won’t be working seasonal anymore – we’ll be working full-time,” said Stacey, who is a vice chair of the union local of the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW).
Under the agreement announced Jan. 16, OCI will process farmed salmon from Grieg NL, investing about $25 million into the local economy and creating full-time processing jobs at the plant.
The OCI plant in St. Lawrence is a multi-species plant, with a heavy reliance on snow crab to feed its processing lines, and providing seasonal work for its employees.
The news was also welcomed by the Town Council of St. Lawrence.
Mayor Paul Pike told The Southern Gazette he expects the agreement will result in about 125 year-round jobs.
“People of St. Lawrence are very excited with this announcement and look forward with great anticipation to the employment opportunities,” he said.
According to a news release from the Grieg Group, the project represents a significant investment in the economy of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
“The owners, management and staff of Grieg NL look forward to growing and becoming an integral part of the Placentia Bay community, and contributing to exciting new business opportunities and numerous long-term, all-year job offerings in the region,” the release states.
Some of the local plant workers have more than 30 years as seasonal employees.
Stacey said now they will have the opportunity to have a full-time job in their own community “to come to work every day and go home every day.”
She said that isn’t the case for some in the community who work outside of town or out of province.
“Lots of people have to leave the community to go to work, and we’re lucky enough to be able to have this industry to support all of us.”
Stacey said the union has been in talks with Grieg representatives about the facility’s potential, but nothing is set in stone.
“As of right not we don’t know any details on the start date or the reconstruction of our fish plant.”
However, that doesn't seem to be hindering local optimism.
Darlane Brockerville, who has worked at the plant for over 25 years, is one of the workers who looks forward to a new, more modern processing facility.
The current facility is over 30 years old.
“A new, modern facility – we are looking forward to that and a more comfortable environment to work in,” she said.
Steady, year-round work will also be a great help to plant workers.
“We’re going into our retirement years in the next few years, and everybody is trying to pay off their bills,” said Brockerville.
“(If) you’re working all year round, you’re making more money.”
Grieg still has to clear another hurdle, however, before it can move ahead with setting up the salmon farming operation.
The company’s plans include a land-based hatchery on 10 hectares of land, as well as a marine-based system of cages in Placentia Bay.
In November, the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment informed Grieg NL Nurseries Ltd. and Grieg NL Seafarms Ltd. that an environmental impact statement (EIS) would be required.
Details of the proposal, and the environmental assessment process are available on the government’s website: http://www.mae.gov.nl.ca/env_assessment/projects/Y2016/1834/
The public has until Feb. 11 to comment on the proposal.