Hr. Breton plant opening delayed

Clayton Hunt
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Huge disappointment for workers and community

Mayor Roy Drake of Harbour Breton said he is very concerned about the apparent delay in the opening of the Barry plant in Harbour Breton.

Mayor Roy Drake of Harbour Breton said that the Town Council of Harbour Breton is extremely disappointed with the delay in opening the Barry processing operation in the community until February of 2015. Drake said his council is willing to meet with Bill Barry of the Barry Group and government officials anywhere at any time to discuss the situation.

 

 

 

 

Mayor Roy Drake of Harbour Breton said that the Town Council of Harbour Breton is extremely disappointed with the delay in opening the Barry processing operation in the community until February of 2015. Drake said his council is willing to meet with Bill Barry of the Barry Group and government officials anywhere at any time to discuss the situation.

Clayton Hunt photo

 

 

 

The plant was scheduled to start processing salmon in October, but the Barry Group says that opening will be delayed until at least February of 2015.

One hundred and fifty employees worked at the previous Cooke operation at the Barry plant for several years.

However, the Barry Group did not renew its lease to Cooke at the end of 2013, which put the operation on hold.

Bill Barry, the president of the Barry Group of Companies, had indicated previously that his company would start some renovations at the facility in May and salmon processing would begin again at the operation in October.

Mayor Drake said that his council was notified in March that there would be some delay in the start-up of the Barry operation.

“We’ve had meetings with the Barry Group to determine what the town could possibly do to help restart the facility. We are working with them to get an agreement on how we can help in the process,” Drake told The Advertiser last week.

“However, it’s been a very slow painful process, and now we’re at this point where we learn that the facility will not open until February.

“Many people in the community believe the repair work that the Barry Group said would start at the facility in May should have been completed by now.”

“This council is willing to meet with the Barry Group an any time to help this process move along as we’re as concerned as the displaced workers about the future of this facility.”

Greg Pretty, the Director of the Industrial Sector of the FFAW, said the situation is worrisome.

“This is a huge issue for the workers and the community. If Barry doesn’t open the plant in 2015 it means, in essence, that the Harbour Breton plant will be knocked out of the aquaculture industry on the Connaigre Peninsula.”

Community Enhancement Program

As of Aug. 14, 24 displaced workers were working at various town projects under a Provincial Government Community Enhancement Program (CEP). That number would increase to 29 on Aug. 25 with workers receiving $10 an hour.

“Our position as a Union,” Pretty said, “is that given the amount of money the government has put into the aquaculture industry in the region, they will have to step up and do exactly the same thing now for the workers.

“We can’t have people who actually handle the product being paid poverty wages while the companies get huge amounts of help from government.”

Pretty said the province doesn’t have a policy to deal with situation like this, just like it has no policy to address the amount of fish going out of the region for further processing in New Brunswick.

“If this is what goes for public policy then we have to go back to the drawing board. People can’t be disadvantaged when New Brunswick aquaculture workers are the ones benefitting the most from this province’s contributions to the aquaculture industry.”

Pretty said it’s important that Barry be given an opportunity to operate the plant in Harbour Breton.

“Barry has a plan for Harbour Breton, “Pretty said. “We’ve talked to him about it. We think it’s a good plan but he has to have the ability to operate that facility or Harbour Breton will once again be crippled economically.”

Pretty said that he would also like to see MHA Tracey Perry supporting the workers like she is supporting Steve Kent in the PC leadership race.

“Tracey Perry should be supporting the unemployed workers in the community who have that huge question hanging over their heads — will our plant see any future operation?”

Perry Responds

Perry, the MHA for Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune, said she supports the displaced salmon processing workers in Harbour Breton 100 percent.

“I have been working very closely with the Town Council on this issue right from the beginning,” she told The Advertiser.

“We have worked hard on this concern, and it’s been through our strong efforts that the town secured funding for the projects now employing 24 residents.”

Perry said she would like to see higher wages for all provincial displaced workers on CEPs.

“I feel every single worker in the province is deserving of a fair wage. The CEP is standard for all people in all industries in the province. The reality is that these wages are paid for the taxpayers’ purse so we can only go so far. It’s interesting to note that this government has increased the minimum wage from $7 to $10 an hour and it will increase to $10.25 on October 1.”

Mayor Drake added Perry has “worked hard” with the town to get CEP for these 24 workers.

“Perry started work on this as soon as we made her aware of the situation,” he said.

Workers Reaction

Darlene Skinner said she is very disappointed to know that the processing facility will not be in operation in October as workers were told early in 2014.

“We don’t know where we stand now,” Skinner said. “Will this be the last delay, or will we hear later on that the Barry Group won’t open the plant in February?

“The plant needs some major work to get it up and running and if the work is not started soon, Barry should give the plant up to the town to see what they can do with it.”

Mayor Drake said a number of people have mentioned this idea to him but it’s simply not realistic.

“It would not be feasible for a community with a rather small population to take on a facility that was built in the 1960s that needs major upgrades.

“This is an idea that council can’t even entertain at this point in time.”

Laura Lambert said she is very disappointed in the delay as she thought she would be back to work before her EI runs out in December.

“I’m not looking forward to working on a project,” Lambert said, “as I have to get 420 hours to open a new EI claim. I thought we’d be back to work processing salmon by Christmas.

“The thing about this is the uncertainty of what might happen in the New Year. If we knew for sure the plant was going to reopen in February the news would not be so hard to swallow but it’s the uncertainty that really gets you.”

Eric Day is a displaced worker and the vice-president of the Industrial and Offshore Sector of the FFAW.

“I don’t feel good about the situation,” Day said. “We were earning $10 an hour on projects years ago and with an ever-increasing cost of living, $10 an hour is simply not a good wage in this day and age.

“I’d really like to see the town to do all it can to help out the workers who are now facing another uncertain situation. As a union, we are hoping to meet with the Barry Group and government officials to discuss this situation going forward.”

clayton.hunt@advertisernl.ca

Organizations: Barry Group, PC, Town Council

Geographic location: Harbour Breton, New Brunswick, Fortune Bay La Hune

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  • Concerned for Connaigre
    August 19, 2014 - 15:35

    I m very concerned for this area but this plant opening delay is not a surprise. When you get down to the brass tax of it, this aquaculture industry has been nothing but a liability to the tax payers of this province. When you see the mayor of Hr. Breton going on record talking about the new homes being built with Aquaculture money when in fact not one house is built from this industry but rather off shore oil and people who work in Alberta and on ships have built this area he refers to. The quicker Drake stop thinking like Tracey Perry the quicker we will get on to something stable in this area. This aquaculture industry have given us nothing but frustration, false hope, have damaged the lobster stocks in the area, have littered the bays, especially Grays who have practically destroyed Hermitage Bay and continues to do so. Perry is lost cause and we will not get this area stabilized until after the next election. We are much worst off now than we were when she was initially elected. She has us in a shameful state. The companies here on this coast are making themselves and a few other people rich but the workers are certainly not benifetting from it. The wages are so poor people are working up to 140 hours a week and this is becoming a safety issue for them but are afraid to say anything about it as the company will retaliate. The whole problem with this industry is that it is in a position where it is waging the government around and it has gotten out o control. No regulations are being enforced, health and safety is being compromised, and the government is in this so deep it can't find a way out.