Job losses and reduced hours for employees are the result of Canadian Fishing Company’s (Canfisco) latest restructuring at its Oceanside Plant in Prince Rupert.
The company is no longer supporting the maintenance and operation of their salmon canning operation in the Oceanside Plant, mostly due to the low return on salmon found in the area over the past few years.
“I can’t give you an exact number [on the number of jobs lost]. Most of the jobs that would be directly impacted would be the ones for people in our trades maintenance group, who are involved in maintaining and operating the canning equipment itself. Also there will be some impact on the general workforce, because we’ll still be doing unloading and dressing of the salmon, but that doesn’t take as many people as putting it into the cans as well,” said Canfisco vice-president of production and corporate development, Rob Morley on Thursday,
“The more senior people will still be called into work to do all those operations and some of the junior people will either not get as much work, and we tend to hire a large number of new people every year in any event, so it will be that the people won’t be hired [early next year] … At this time of year, essentially everyone’s laid off for most of the winter and they wouldn’t normally be coming back until some time early in the new year,” he added.
Along with job losses, work hours are expected to be cut for employees remaining at the plant. However, Canfisco’s Seal Cove plant “will still be operating as normal”, Morley said.
“With reduced resource access resulting in declining catches, along with changing markets for salmon, Canadian Fishing Company will be restructuring its Oceanside Plant operation in Prince Rupert in the coming months,” read an original press release issued by the company Thursday.
“The demand for canned salmon is declining, and together with its limited supply and high costs, we can no longer support the maintenance and operation of the canning operation in Prince Rupert.”
While the Oceanside Plant handles more than just salmon, it’s the salmon that is the biggest resource the company handles.
“It does herring as well. So we unload and freeze herring and from time to time, we’ll unload other species like roe fish. Ground fish and loading operations are split between Oceanside and Seal Cove plants,” Morley said. “Salmon is definitely the most important thing going on there.”
“We’re going to sit down with the [United Fisherman and Allied Workers Union] and talk about how we can best restructure and minimize and mitigate the impacts,” Morley added.
The release continues to say that Canfisco’s plan for the future involves continuing to load and process salmon “into other product forms” at Canfisco’s Oceanside and Seal Cove plants and that there will be no impact on the unloading and other processing operations for all other species.
The cause of the restructuring is due to a number of factors, namely the low salmon stocks, competition with plants in Alaska and their lower labour costs and reduced access from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), cutting back the exploitation rate.
“It’s not just this year. We’ve consistently not seen the volumes that the plant was built to handle. It was built to ideally can over 400,000 cases a year, and I think there’s only been a couple years in the last 20 where we’ve been anywhere near that number … That’s a result, in some cases, of poorer returns, and in some cases, reduced access from the DFO cutting back the exploitation rate on some of these fisheries and shifting more of the volume to fisheries further up the river,” Morley said.
In terms of solid numbers, this year’s 40,000 cases was the lowest in quite some time, but is part of a growing trend of lower and lower salmon returns.
“The volumes in that plant over the last 10 years have varied between I think 200,000 cases, but this past year it was only 40,000. We’ve had other years in the last five that have been less than 100,000 as well, so those kinds of volumes are not sufficient to run a cost-effective operation,” said Morley.
Employees and union representatives will be discussing an adjustment plan in the immediate future.