Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Cannery closure spawns a range of media opinion

The announcement of the end of
canning operations in Prince Rupert
continues to generate new stories
across the province
The announcement of mid November that the Canadian Fish Company plans to close its Oceanside cannery in Prince Rupert has provided for a growing list of media items of late that focus on the state of British Columbia's commercial fishery.

Over the last few weeks, the major newspapers and television networks in the province, have provided a number of reviews of the closure announcement and what it means for the BC fishing industry.

The topic has also been part of the news cycle in the Northwest with local media outlets providing varying degrees of background on the story.

Such is the nature of the story, with the twin themes of major job loss and the apparent change of direction for an iconic British Columbia industry that it still is making for copy for a number of publications, with two new items for your review from two very different sources.

The latest contributions to the news flow from today come from Business in Vancouver magazine and the union affiliated newspaper The Fishermen.

The Business magazine's offering provides a short overview of the announcement and the conditions of the fishery that led to the decision to close the canning lines at the George Hills Way plant.

Rob Morley, the VP for Product and corporate development of Canadian fish noted that processing levels have plummeted in recent years, with only 40,000 cases canned in the 2015 fishing season.

Adding that the plant that once canned a wide line of salmon products had stopped canning chum and sockeye in recent years, making pinks the main focus of their canning operation.

As for the future for Canadian Fish in Prince Rupert, Morley reinforced the plan for the company to now concentrate on fresh caught and frozen markets for its operations in Prince Rupert.

In the article, the topic of job losses is reviewed and while we still don't have a firm number on the amount of seasonal workers that will be unemployed (the totals have ranged from anywhere from 650 to 400 of late, a high end number that Canfisco officials have rejected ) there does seem to be a more hard number available when it comes to maintenance and trade workers that will be left without work.

In the BIV article, Rob Morley from Canadian Fish notes that the cannery closure would impact the 20 tradespeople who operate and maintain the equipment, with it anticipated that less than half of that number will be required without a canning line in the plant.

You can review the full Business in Vancouver article here.

The Fishermen article tackles the theme of fishing licences and how the moves by Canadian Fish of last month means that the Jim Pattison Group company has forfeited any social right to their licence privilege.

The paper which is affiliated with UFAWU relayed the concerns of fishermen and small fish buyers who believe that the moves of Canadian Fish over the years created a monopoly situation and have provided the Vancouver based fishing company with a sense of entitlement, suggesting that the decision to throw hundreds of Prince Rupert plant workers out of work is a strong indication of that entitlement.

The paper takes a stance that it is time for the new Federal Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo to reevaluate the Department of Fisheries policies when it comes to the corporate nature of the province's fishing industry.

Adding one key action that they would like to see the Minister take:

We are calling on the Minister to divorce processors control over harvesting, to build a ‘made in BC’ version of fleet separation and owner operator policies. We are calling on the Minister to forthwith implement the policy of Adjacency to protect rural coastal communities; fish should be processed close to the area where they were caught.

You can review the full article from the Fishermen here.

UFAWU officials are currently making that very case with the Federal Minister, part of their efforts to try and draw attention to the impact of the recent closure announcement on the North Coast.

As we noted on the blog on Saturday,  Kim Olsen, the national president of UFAWU-Unifor will be in town on Thursday to update the membership on the status of those conservations and the plan of action ahead for the union on the North Coast.

More items related to the closure announcement of October can be found on our archive page here.

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