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Ice conditions creating hardship for harvesters and plant workers

May 1, 2015

Today, FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan wrote to Pierre Poilievre, Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada, requesting the federal government extend Employment Insurance benefits, or the equivalent, to fish harvesters and plant workers in the province who have been kept ashore by heavy ice conditions for the second year in a row.

The Labrador coast and the Strait of Belle Isle around the Northeast coast down to White Bay is surrounded by heavy ice, preventing harvesters from accessing their fishing grounds. Northeast winds have pushed ice into areas around Fogo Island and Bonavista Bay.

The lobster season in 4R has been delayed by one week. The crab season in area 3K and 3L are currently open, however many boats are unable to fish due to ice conditions.

The persistent ice in some areas of the province is causing severe hardship for many families. Many families have been without any income since early April.

In 2007, the federal government set aside $7.9 million for a special ice compensation program in areas affected by the heavy ice conditions last spring. Eligible recipients were paid $377 per week – the average of fishing E.I. payments.

Similar programs had been implemented in 1974 and 1990 when unusually heavy ice conditions caused a delay in the start-up of the fishery.

Plant workers are also facing work shortages since harvesters are unable to deliver the material for processing.

Thousands of families are impacted. We requested the Minister’s prompt attention to this matter.

Visit our Facebook page to view a video of the conditions.

For media inquiries, please contact Jason Spingle at or 709-632-9434 or Courtney Pelley or 709-743-4445.