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Province announces $5.5 million to assist fish plant workers

Premier Dwight Ball, left, Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne and Municipal Affairs Minister Gerry Byrne are pictured during an announcement of $5.5 million in provincial funding to assist fish plant workers.
Premier Dwight Ball, left, Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne and Municipal Affairs Minister Gerry Byrne are pictured during an announcement of $5.5 million in provincial funding to assist fish plant workers.

Fish plant workers in communities across the province will have the opportunity to earn needed insurable hours through short-term employment that the provincial government is funding to the tune of $5.5 million.

Premier Dwight Ball was flanked by Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne and Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce at the Sir Richard Squires Building in Corner Brook on Monday as he announced the funding, which comes as a result of the employment challenges faced by processing plant workers due to declines in shellfish resources and severe sea ice conditions.

The money will be administered by Municipal Affairs and won’t be a direct handout to plant workers.

Instead, the province will be reaching out to impacted companies, communities, and residents to provide information on available supports and determine eligibility for assistance. The result will be a series of projects undertaken that affected plant workers will be hired to work on.

In the past there’s been criticism of such programs as being “make work projects.”

Byrne said there will always be a certain level of criticism or cynicism whenever employment supports are provided.

“The fact is, is that these employment programs do support significant valuable community-based projects that assist the economy of the region, that assists the overall well-being, the quality of life in communities and the economic capacity of communities to be able to generate new jobs and new opportunities.”

Byrne add the province also has the responsibility to be compassionate as it is dealing with a group of workers, who through no fault of their own, have faced an economic circumstance, an employment circumstance which put their livelihood, their ability to make a living, the ability of their community to be prosperous, in jeopardy.

Shrimp and crab quotas have been reduced, resulting in less work in the plants themselves.

He said the province will make good use of the resources to make sure great projects are done, people have access to employment, that employment will produce revenue for them and their families, and their communities will then be sustainable.

A suite of supports is also available under the Integrated Transition Framework for Displaced Plant Workers. This multi-departmental program exists to respond to communities and individuals impacted by fish plant closures. It provides transitional employment assistance and offers participants access to transitional counselling services to better prepare for future employment opportunities.

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