Work prospects at Canfisco are continuing their downward trend for Prince Rupert’s declining number of onshore workers.
Faced with historically-low salmon returns this year, and the plant’s 2015 decision to shutdown canning operations, the union representing these workers doesn’t expect the prospects to improve anytime soon.
“I think it’s going to be devastating,” said Christina Nelson, northern organizer for the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union (UFAWU).
“They’re going to have even less hours, I suspect, than they did last year … and then I think we’re going to go into our third really poor year.”
Nelson says salmon returns are only partially responsible for the trouble, pointing directly at Canfisco’s 2015 decision to cut canning operations from the local plant.
Of the 330 UNIFOR members on the seniority list, down from 750 prior to 2015, only 47 have received enough hours to qualify for Employment Insurance.
“At this point in a salmon season, you would expect your senior workers are going to be working.”
When the plant is operating at full capacity, there are less than 200 workers on site.
In 2015 three-million pounds of salmon were canned at the Oceanside plant providing 78,000 hours of work to the shoreworkers.
In 2016, Nelson said they gutted and shipped five million pounds of salmon but because the fish was shipped south it provided only 34,000 hours of work locally. The union is pushing the province on policies that ensure fish is processed where it is caught, rather shipping to other plants, nationally or abroad.
Even during periods of low salmon returns, Nelson said, an on site freezer would create more local labour opportunity in fresh fish processing.
Representatives for Canfisco could not immediately be reached for comment before deadline.