UFAWU-Unifor released its policy advocacy video this past week urging the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to adopt fleet separation

UFAWU-Unifor makes public plea to feds to save jobs

As B.C.’s fishing season gets under way, the union representing workers at B.C.’s last fish cannery has made a public plea to save jobs

As B.C.’s commercial fishing season gets under way, the union representing workers at B.C.’s last fish cannery has made a public plea to the federal government to save their jobs.

In a seven-minute video released on Wednesday, members of UFAWU-Unifor, which represents workers in fishing, processing and transport in B.C., describe the Prince Rupert plant’s history, its connection to First Nations culture and communities and the ripple effects of growing concentration in the fish-processing business.

“Our government has failed us. They have allowed north coast herring to be exported to China for processing,” Conrad Lewis, vice-president of the Prince Rupert Shoreworkers local of UFAWU-Unifor, says in the video, which was posted on YouTube.

“Northern groundfish is landed in [Prince] Rupert and processed in Portland, Ore. Our salmon is being sent to the Lower Mainland, Washington or China for processing,” he adds. “We only gut it to ensure the salmon roe maintains its export quality.”

The plant’s owner, Canadian Fishing Co. – known as Canfisco and a division of the multibillion-dollar Jim Pattison Group – told the union of its plans to cease canning operations at the plant last November. The plant will remain open to gut and pack fish for transport for processing elsewhere. That change could mean the loss of more than 300 jobs, the union maintains. At its peak, in the 1980s, the cannery was producing up to 500,000 cases of canned salmon a year.

A Canfisco spokesperson was not immediately available.

Canfisco is part of the Jim Pattison Group’s food and beverage division, one of eight industry groups that comprise the privately held empire.

The Jim Pattison Group acquired Canfisco in 1984 and since then, Canfisco has grown by acquisition and now dominates the fish processing industry.

Along the way, many smaller canneries have been closed, leaving the Prince Rupert plant the last one in the province. This summer, there will be none.

In the 1970s, the union represented about 3,000 northern shoreworkers in 13 plants in B.C. That is down to four plants and about 400 workers, UFAWU-Unifor president Arnold Nagy says on the video, adding that “no amount of port work or LNG will replace our jobs.”

The union has proposed that the federal government require fish to be processed near the waters in which they are caught.

“We are not saying [to Canfisco], ‘You have to keep canning fish’,” UFAWU-Unifor spokeswoman Joy Thorkelson said Wednesday.

“What we are trying to say is you need to process that fish here … if you are going to process that fish, into steaks or chunks and vacuum-seal it – we want to do that work,” she added.

Policy-makers have struggled to strike the right balance between commercial, sport and First Nations fishing interests and conservation concerns. The cannery had a dismal season last year because of low salmon returns, but aside from that, which Ms. Thorkelson characterizes as an anomaly, the cannery regularly turned a profit, she said.

The union says it sent the video to fisheries minister Hunter Tootoo on March 29. Ms. Thorkelson says she hopes it will help secure some meetings between union and government officials to discuss policy concerns.

Mr. Tootoo resigned from his position on Tuesday to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. An Inuk who was born in Rankin Inlet, he was one of 10 indigenous MPs elected last year.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Landlord Lows – Using tools are vital

Rental responsibilites and landlord lows

New LNG terminal near Prince Rupert proposed

AlaskCAN International LNG wants terminal just over Canadian border, but using B.C gas

Kitselas receive $1.2M boost for apprenticeship development program, open to Tsimshian and Haisla Nations

Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education announces $7.5M for six Indigenous training programs

Prince Rupert makes the cut in draft Alaska Marine Highway System schedule

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities releases proposed AMHS schedule

Prince Rupert Rampage roll in Cariboo country

A pair of wins have the Rampage in position to control their own playoff destiny

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

UBC grad and sister killed in Iran plane crash had bright futures ahead, close friend says

Asadi-Lari siblings Mohammad Hussein and Zeynab were two of 57 Canadians aboard downed Flight PS752

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Coastal GasLink work camp in Vanderhoof gets approved by the ALC

The work camp behind the Vanderhoof airport was first rejected by the commission in October last year

Canada slips in global corruption ranking in aftermath of SNC-Lavalin scandal

The country obtained a score of 77, which places it at the top in the Americas

Wuhan bans cars, Hong Kong closes schools as coronavirus spreads

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will raise its response level to emergency, highest one

Most Read