Bay de Verde processing plant employee terminated

Some say tension mounting over arrival of temporary foreign workers

Nicholas Mercer
Published on June 5, 2014

Englee resident Pernell Fillier was recently fired from his job at the seafood processing plant in Bay de Verde.

Photo by Nicholas Mercer/The Compass

Editor's Note: The Compass has learned Mr. Fillier was asked to relocate to Old Perlican but still remain an employee at the Bay de Verde seafood processing plant. This story has been changed to reflect this information.

An Englee man was fired this week for speaking out about hiring practices at the seafood processing plant in Bay de Verde.

Pernell Fillier, 35, told The Compass today (June 5) that a senior official at Quinlan Brothers Ltd., terminated his employment on June 4 after he questioned the need to bring in temporary foreign workers from the southeast Asian country of Thailand.

It all started when Fillier was told he would be required to move to the neighbouring community of Old Perlican, a short distance away on the Bay de Verde Peninsula, in order to make room for the foreign workers in Bay de Verde. He would live there and still be required to work at the Bay de Verde plant.

There were others in the same situation, said Fillier, whose duties included clean-up and "dry pack." Fillier said he had routinely worked 12-hour shifts, and up to 75 hours each week in the period leading up to the arrival of the foreign workers.

“There were a lot of people asked to shift,” said Fillier.

But because he does not have a vehicle, Fillier said he protested the transfer.

As a result, he was told to grab his belongings and was given two-day to vacate the company owned rental property where he was staying on Front Road.

“They said, ‘you can grab your lunch tin and go,’” he said.

A move to Old Perlican would have cut his hours back considerably, Fillier added.

“Their attitude is take it or leave it,” he said. “If you say anything, you’re fired.”

The dispute comes at a time when the temporary foreign worker program has made headlines across the country, prompting the federal government to put a moratorium on the practice.

Fillier said there is a lack of loyalty at the plant, which attracts workers from many different regions of the province, and is one of the busiest in the industry.

It was his fourth year working at the plant, which requires that he leave home in April and return in late November. He earned $12.79 per hour.

Fillier said there is a sense of unrest at the plant as they prepare for the arrival of the foreign workers, likely today.

“They’re treating Newfoundland workers like (dirt),” he said.

The Compass spoke to another Newfoundland worker who confirmed the arrival of foreigners, and the decision by the company to transfer local employees to Old Perlican.

"Loyalty is not a word they know," said the employee (The Compass has decided not to publish the worker's name).

Attempts to reach a representative from Quinlan Brothers Ltd., were unsuccessful.


History with foreign workers

Quinlan Brothers has a history with utilizing foreign workers to fill staffing needs. In 2012, more than a dozen Thailand workers were brought in after an effort to hire Newfoundland workers came up short.

Fillier views the move to foreign workers as a cost-cutting measure by the company, and suggested the jobs can be filled locally.

"It's like I told them, there were nine people who faxed up resumes and phoned them," he said.


A long way

For the last four years, Fillier has made the 13-hour journey from his hometown of Englee, on the Northern Peninsula, to Bay de Verde. This will likely have been his last, and the ride home will be a long and expensive one.

A friend is expected to drive him to Whitbourne on Friday, where he will wait for the cross-island bus service to transport him to Deer Lake. The cost of a bus ticket for an adult is $84, plus other expenses, and that does not include the 350-plus kilometre trip from Deer Lake to his hometown.

“I’m pissed,” he said

The Compass will have updates as they become available.