Fortune plant reopens amidst optimism

Paul Herridge
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Shutdown for equipment installation after cod processing

Another obstacle was hampering work at Ocean Choice International’s (OCI) fish plant in Fortune over the last week or so. This roadblock, however, unlike last year’s crisis that threatened a permanent closure, was temporary and related to the recent spate of high winds and bad weather.

Ocean Choice International Fortune fish plant

BY PAUL HERRIDGE

The Southern Gazette

Karen Caines, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union at the Fortune facility, indicated Thursday the plant started up Jan. 19.

“Everything is up and running but the weather is not cooperating for our boats to go out.”

The startup comes after the company and the provincial government struck a deal just days before Christmas to reopen the facility, with eventual increased employment, in exchange for redfish and yellowtail export exemptions.

Ms. Caines indicated about 75 plant workers are currently processing codfish that is being harvested by two Canadian-leased vessels.

Once the cod has been caught and processed, by the latter part of February or mid-March, Ms. Caines she has been told the company will bring in and install new equipment to process the agreed up portion of its yellowtail quota.

“I think they’re estimating between five to six months, so we’re looking at August or September, but we got nothing definite on that yet.

“The plant got to be completely cleaned out to put this equipment in.”

The company is expected to ramp up to the roughly 120 or so processing jobs that were promised as part of the agreement around that time as well.

“It seems like the mood at the plant amongst the workers is trustworthy. It seems like everybody feels good about this deal that the government made with OCI for the plant.” – Karen Caines

Mrs. Caines said the facility’s employees were excited to get back to work.

Under terms of the deal, OCI has agreed to operate the Fortune plant for a minimum five years.

“It seems like the mood at the plant amongst the workers is trustworthy. It seems like everybody feels good about this deal that the government made with OCI for the plant.

“Everyone’s talking about the future, like what’s going to happen. We’re all hoping that everything is going to work out and it’s going to be a success here.”

In that regard, Ms. Caines did acknowledge not all were thrilled with the exemption deal, or its timing, announced on the Friday evening before Christmas.

“No matter what you does, you’re going to get opposition to it anyways.

“No one knows what the future holds so hopefully later on down the road we’ll be able to hire on more people than what is initially proposed.”

pherridge@southerngazette.ca

Organizations: Allied Workers, OCI

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