30 January 2007

Fish processing worker background

Some quick references on the issue:

1. An analysis by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, 2002. An extract:
Newfoundland has almost 140 fish plants, and up to 20,000 fish plant workers. Although some of the plants are highly automated, highly efficient operations that produce year-round. (National Sea's Arnold's Cove plant and Beothuck Fisheries’ Valleyfield plant are examples of a modern year round fish processing industry.) Many of the rest were put there for political reasons, often paid for by tax dollars, an often barely able to give their workers the 420 hours needed to qualify for 34 weeks of employment insurance....

The pulp and paper industry in Newfoundland has only 60% of its 1972workforce, while the fishplants employ twice as many as they did in 1972. Even the number of loggers is down by almost50%, while the number of fishermen continues to climb. In 1972 the Newfoundland unemployment rate was eight per cent. Since the advent of the "stamp fishery" and easier EI it has averaged between 15 and 20 per cent. A good quarter of that unemployment is directly attributable to the "stamp fishery."
2. From 2004, a short news release from then-fish minister Trevor Taylor. An extract:
Work at fish plants tends to be short-term in rural areas where employment opportunities are low and unemployment rates are high. The Fish Processing Policy Review Commission, under the direction of Commissioner Eric Dunne (Dunne Report), found that in real terms plant workers' average employment income in the province had declined to $9,660 in 2001. The outlook for plant workers is unclear given that technological innovations continue to reduce the labour demands of the fishing industry.
3. A typical Williams administration response, to date. The federal government has followed the same approach.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will provide an additional $2.4 million to assist fish plant workers who will likely not secure sufficient hours to qualify for Employment Insurance. The Honourable John Ottenheimer, Acting Municipal Affairs Minister, today announced the funding to meet employment support needs in the province’s fishery.
4. Fishery reports. The problems have been studied - a lot; here are just two.