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‘We can’t get by on just the bare minimum’: Twillingate plant workers hope government funding will prove beneficial during economic downturn

After the shutdown of the Notre Dame Seafoods plant in Twillingate last summer, Ruby Clarke and her husband Clarence have found work at the seafoods plant in Comfort Cove-Newstead. However, with the plant’s dominant species crab also experiencing dwindling quotas, Ruby says she is unsure if she will make enough hours to get by on this alone.
After the shutdown of the Notre Dame Seafoods plant in Twillingate last summer, Ruby Clarke and her husband Clarence have found work at the seafoods plant in Comfort Cove-Newstead. However, with the plant’s dominant species crab also experiencing dwindling quotas, Ruby says she is unsure if she will make enough hours to get by on this alone. - Kyle Greenham

Plant remains shutdown while other central plants lose hours

TWILLINGATE, CARTER’S COVE AND HAPPY ADVENTURE, N.L. – The announced funding for plant workers impacted by cuts to shrimp, crab and cod is needed in both the Twillingate and Comfort Cove-Newstead area.

Following the shutdown of the Notre Dame Seafoods plant in Twillingate last summer, former employees Ruby and Clarence Clarke have taken up jobs at the Comfort Cove plant, also owned by Notre Dame Seafoods. The plant processes predominantly crab, which has also been severely impacted by declines in stock and quota.

Ruby Clarke says while they’ve managed to combat the economic loss wrought from the Twillingate plant, the situation in Comfort Cove-Newstead is creating similar struggles.

“When we were at the crab some weeks we’re getting six hours, or 24 hours [of work] at most,” Clarke said. “If we barely scrape the hours needed it’ll be the lowest kind of unemployment; we’ll never make it on that.”

Dwindling crab quotas have also hurt the Happy Adventure Sea Products plant on the Eastport peninsula. However, plant manager John Head says the plant is hoping to make up for the losses through processing capelin and cod.

“It’s not great, the crab was way down,” said Head. “But there’s a real good sign of capelin this year, and we’re hoping to make up the difference on capelin and cod. I think most of the workers will be okay at the end of the season.”

On July 4, the province announced $2.5 million to help the many struggling plant workers of the province. An additional $500,000 in support is coming from the Integrated Transition Framework for Displaced Plant Workers.

The closure of the Notre Dame Seafoods plant in Twillingate has wrought economic devastation across the area.
The closure of the Notre Dame Seafoods plant in Twillingate has wrought economic devastation across the area.


With the plant’s continued closure, the Town of Twillingate recently released a public call for any non-profit organizations in the area that are in need of work to reach out to the town. These organizations are eligible to apply for projects under the Fish Plant Workers Support Program.

An announcement on the programs available for the workers is expected later this month.

“The town needs to be ready to have work for them when they need it. They’ve played a very important role in our community,” Twillingate Deputy Mayor Cyril Dalley said in a previous Pilot interview.

The programs put in place for the Twillingate workers last year only provided minimum wage and the minimum amount of hours to qualify for employment insurance (EI), which brought upset from many parties.

The plant in Comfort Cove-Newstead also processes capelin and turbot, but crab remains its dominant species. Ruby and Clarence Clarke are unsure if they will qualify for EI from their work in Comfort Cove alone. They hope the support from government will be there to help them make ends meet during this time of economic uncertainty and depletion within the fishery.

“We might get two or three days with the capelin, 35 hours of work on the turbot and then that’ll be all over. So we’re going to end up with all low weeks,” Clarke said. “We can’t get by on just the bare minimum. Hopefully the extra hours will be there for us somehow to make up for it.”

kyle.greenham@ganderbeacon.ca

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