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Minister’s statement underscores power imbalance facing OCI plant workers

June 22, 2017

ST. JOHN’S, June 22, 2017 – Minister Steve Crocker’s statement regarding exemptions to minimum processing requirements recently granted to OCI undermines labour relations in an attempt to justify a decision that sets a dangerous precedent for the economic future of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Engaging directly with workers at the Fortune OCI plant, without having FFAW leadership or staff present, is an unprofessional and unacceptable political move,” said Keith Sullivan, President of FFAW-Unifor. “FFAW acts as the certified agent for the workers in the Fortune plant on matters of employment; the Union acts on their behalf to give them a strong voice free from undue employer or government pressure.”

The workers in Fortune are amongst the lowest paid unionized plant workers in the province and are desperate for work. OCI is a multi-million dollar multi-national company with strong political connections and the full backing of the Fortune town council, where the company is the largest tax payer.

“The power imbalance between the workers on one side and the provincial government and OCI on the other is beyond measure,” Sullivan noted. “That is why the Union exists. By going over the head of the Union, the government and OCI were asking these workers to make a decision they were in no position – economically or socially – to challenge.”

It is deeply improper to leverage work for some plant workers at the expense of work for others. “The fish that the provincial government exempted OCI from processing in Newfoundland and Labrador could have provided much needed work to many in the province. OCI’s plants in Port aux Choix, Triton, Bonavista and St. Lawrence all currently provide insufficient work, which could be alleviated by processing the fish that is being exempted,” Sullivan states.

OCI brands itself as “one of the largest seafood quota holders in the country.” Almost all of OCI’s current catch is shipped to low wage countries for processing. The quotas include large quantities of:

  • Northern shrimp
  • Redfish
  • Turbot
  • American Plaice; and
  • Yellowtail Flounder

FFAW fights for plant workers and inshore harvesters, and envisions a future where the province realizes the full value of our resources to support vibrant, sustainable coastal communities.

“We are fighting for thousands of workers all across this province,” Sullivan concluded. “Unfortunately, our job is made infinitely harder by a provincial government that seemingly supports OCI’s agenda of a jobless society in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.”


For media inquiries:
Courtney Glode