FFAW- Premier’s approval of OCI exemptions signs away millions in rural economic development

ST. JOHN’S, June 21, 2017 – FFAW-Unifor is shocked and deeply disappointed in the provincial government’s decision to issue further exemptions to Ocean Choice International (OCI), allowing the company to ship yellowtail, redfish, and American plaice to low wage countries for processing rather than process it locally to employ people in this province.

“This decision is a slap in the face to plant workers and rural communities,” said Keith Sullivan, President of FFAW-Unifor. “Issuing these exemptions is a betrayal of the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and is harmful to the overall economy of the province. Our province should be focused on maximizing employment and adding value to our natural resources as a means of building the economy; not padding the bottom-line of OCI.”

“These exemptions clearly highlight the importance of supporting a strong owner-operator fleet,” Sullivan added. “The owner-operator fleet lands locally and maximizes the value of the fishery for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. There would be nothing left to rural NL if OCI’s approach to the fishery was followed.”

The most recent exemptions are the latest given to OCI by the province in return for so-called commitments on employment at the OCI plant in Fortune. In 2012, OCI was given exemptions for yellowtail and in return it committed to providing 110 full time processing positions for a minimum of five years at the Fortune plant, which would have included 2017.

That commitment was never met. In return for OCI’s commitment to a meager 15 weeks of work, the provincial government has now signed away millions of dollars in local economic development.

When he was leader of the opposition, Premier Ball was highly critical of the exemptions given to OCI in 2012 because the company was not living up to its commitments. In the House of Assembly on May 20, 2015, Premier Ball stated, “Right now with the exemptions, it creates less work in our plants.”

“This decision is troubling for the future of our province,” Sullivan concluded. “With the return of groundfish, we should be focusing on building groundfish processing capacity and improving employment opportunities in plants. The decision to issue these exemptions just throws that opportunity away.”

For media inquiries, please contact:
Courtney Glode
Communications Officer

368 Hamilton Ave., PO Box 10, Stn C
St. John’s NL, A1C 5H5