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Future of Twillingate fish plant up in the air

A closure of the Notre Dame Seafoods plant in Twillingate was announced Wednesday.  Meetings are slated for Thursday which Twillingate – Lewisporte MHA Derek Bennett says may shed more light on the length of the closure.
A closure of the Notre Dame Seafoods plant in Twillingate was announced Wednesday. Meetings are slated for Thursday which Twillingate – Lewisporte MHA Derek Bennett says may shed more light on the length of the closure.

TWILLINGATE, NL –The future of the Notre Dame Seafoods plant in Twillingate has not been decided yet, at least in the view of Twillingate-Lewisporte MHA Derek Bennett.

Unifor, the union representing workers at the Twillingate plant, announced June 21 that workers have been informed the plant had been permanently closed.

“The Notre Dame shrimp processing plant in Twillingate informed workers today that they will be permanently closed as a result of the declining resource,” said Unifor in the release. “The plant employed close to 100 workers during peak processing season.”

Bennett however, says the closure is not permanent, yet.

“Actually, myself and Minister (Steve) Crocker and representatives from the fish plant will be meeting (June 22) in St. John’s,” Bennett told the Pilot late Wednesday evening. “We will basically discuss the short term and long term plans for the plant.”

Bennett says despite the release from Unifor, the union that represents Twillingate plant workers, to the best of the government’s knowledge, the closure is seasonal.

“I spoke to Jason (Eveleigh, president of Notre Dame Seafoods) this afternoon for a short while to let him know I had a meeting arranged with Minister Crocker for tomorrow,” said Bennett. “In my conversation he never indicated anything about a permanent closure.”

His constituency office has been receiving calls from concerned plant workers regarding the plant for weeks and the province, Unifor, and the plant owners have brought the issue to Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame MP Scott Simms. Bennett says all three had a meeting over the weekend to discuss the imminent seasonal closure.

“Myself and MP Simms met with the president and vice-president of the local union…,” said Bennett. “I met with them personally, and we had a telephone conversation with Scott Simms on Saturday afternoon.”

Bennett cited federal shrimp quota cuts as playing a role in the plants closure. Similar claims were made in the Unifor press release.

“It is a stark reminder that we need long-term solutions to ensure we have vibrant, sustainable communities built around the fishing industry,” said Keith Sullivan, FFAW-Unifor president in the release.  “Both federal and provincial governments must step-up to establish the approaches for both plant workers and harvesters to transition to a new fishery,”

In addition to the closure of the Twillingate plant, Bennett says the company’s sister plant, located in Comfort Cove, has been reduced to one shift this season.

While Bennett says he is optimistic heading into the meeting with Minister Crocker, the province will be prepared to assist workers in the event the closure becomes permanent.

“If there is any way to salvage this plant and be able to keep it open, great, that is our number one priority,” said Bennett. “I guess second, if we don’t see any options there, then what we can do to help out the workers that are going to be affected by it.”

The Pilot has reached out to Unifor and Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame MP Simms for comment and will provide updates as they become available.

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Patrick.murphy@tc.tc

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