P.E.I. fish processors scrambling to find workers

Mike Carson
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SUMMERSIDE — Changes to the Temporary Foreign (TWF) Workers Program are not sitting well with at least one Island fish processor.

David Dalton, co-owner of South Shore Seafood Ltd. in Rosebank, has his doubts about the program changes.

“It’s definitely going to affect us for next year,” Dalton said. “I don’t really know what the effects are going to be for this year, if we’re going to have to eliminate part of our staff or not.

“All I got was new rules were coming into effect immediately . . . it’s definitely going to affect us next year if our industry is not put into the same category as Agriculture Canada and get some exceptions or, if we can boost up local prospects for recruits for employees.”

The changes announced include the complete exclusion from the program of the hotel, restaurant and retail sectors in regions considered to have “high unemployment” — defined as six per cent or above. This applies to the vast majority of the Atlantic region.

The non-refundable fee to apply for a TFW has also gone from $275 to $1,000 per position, and employers will need to provide more detailed documentation about their recruitment efforts for local workers.

“We have jobs available but we’re getting ready to shut down for a couple of weeks,” Dalton said.

“Hopefully, everybody is here when we go back to work. We’ll probably be looking for a few more employees once we start up again.”

For 2014, the federal regulations allow a processor to have 30 per cent of its staff comprised of temporary foreign workers. That drops to 20 per cent next year and to 10 per cent in 2016.

“If something doesn’t change, obviously 30 per cent, this year, 20 per cent in 2015 and 10 per cent in 2016 — to have 100 workers, I’d have to have 90 locals in 2016,” Dalton said.

“I probably have 60 local workers here and that’s the most that I’ve had in the last number of years. With wanting to have 100 to 120 people working here, I’m going to have to have 100 locals and only have 15 or 20 from the Philippines. It’s not going to be easy.”

Dalton said a letter to the editor suggested that instead of having one long shift for worker that the time be divided, and two shifts be created.

“At the end of the day, if we can’t find enough people to fill one shift how are we going to get enough people to create two shifts?” he asked.

“Then all of our employees will be complaining that they’re not getting enough hours so they can draw decent unemployment benefits when they’re not working in the wintertime.”

Dalton said the lobster dictates that it be processed immediately.

“It’s not like a conveyor belt where you can turn it off on Friday and go back and turn it on on Monday,” he said.

“You’ve got a live crustacean and if you don’t process it when it’s there it will be dead when you come back Monday morning.”

Egmont MP Gail Shea could not be reached for comment but her office did issue the following statement:

“These changes are aimed at ensuring that Islanders get first crack on available jobs. Running businesses with hundreds of temporary foreign workers while there are unemployed Canadians that are willing to work in the same area is problematic. Islanders and Canadians recognize that.

“We are taking a reasonable approach by giving businesses a period of transition of three years. We expect during that time that they will work harder to try to hire people locally. That might involve a mix of raising wages, improved working conditions and more active recruitment measures.

“The Temporary Foreign Worker Program will continue to be there as a last and limited resort, but it is not a business model that our government supports. Our government is proud to stand up for Island families by giving them access to well-paying jobs.”

Organizations: South Shore Seafood, Agriculture Canada

Geographic location: Iceland, Rosebank, Philippines

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Recent comments

  • Look On The Bright Side
    July 04, 2014 - 18:38

    By 2016 with the new rules , we won't have to listen to any of this . Processing lobster on PEI will be a thing of the past . No workers = no plants therefore only lobster being bought will be for the live market & that isn't anywhere close to the numbers being landed today . Island plants that pay higher wages will not be able to sell product competing against the plants that has lower wage requirements . Let's face it , there is a lot of people in the world that will be damn glad to catch & process lobster or there wouldn't be (tfw) available They want work even if it's not in PEI . Islanders are not suffering yet as they don't want work but when the fishers can't sell their catch & the rest of Canada stop's pouring money into PEI . Then we'll know how big of a mistake we've made by not forcing the people drawing EI to work .

  • SomeSense
    July 04, 2014 - 15:25

    Well they must be looking door-to-door because there have been no postings on the job bank currently the only fish plant related posting I see is for plant maintenance, so I guess they have all the workers they need then right? I dont get the paper but I have also heard that no fish plant jobs were posted there either, will be hard to fill positions if you dont stop complaining and actually make some sort of effort

  • KC
    July 04, 2014 - 14:46

    Before the Provincial government started creating 14 week make-work projects many years ago that have enabled islanders to get their stamps and draw EI the rest of the year, foreign workers were not needed in the plants. Perhaps there should be a two pronged approach, reduce government make-work positions then cut the foreign worker program. The TFW program will not be nearly as necessary because people will apply to the plants.

  • Robert M.
    July 04, 2014 - 14:23

    pay the wage you need to pay to fill the positions...we already have shipped enough fish overseas for processing...let's try not to outsource our jobs via this TFW program, cause that is what you are effectively doing...Foreign Factory freezer trawlers can't do lobster, otherwise the plants would be gone already...

    • Won't Be Long
      July 05, 2014 - 09:52

      It won't be long until these foreign freezer trawlers shift over when they see there isn't any plants running a competitive processing line . Wages are outsourcing job's big time , just look at the US right now . Only answer is for us to force government to reduce cost of living by cutting fee's - taxes & free money so people can live on a smaller income . Business can not be blamed for wanting a larger profit for it's share holders when the government encourages & approves it . Example is Fortis (Maritime Electric) here on PEI

  • plant worker
    July 04, 2014 - 12:18

    if you made 2 shifts and paid decent wages like 12 or 13 dollars per hour for a 60 hour week then workers would also have a decent ei.

  • Garth Staples
    July 04, 2014 - 10:59

    Can the Guardian find anymore pain?!

    • don
      July 04, 2014 - 13:04

      yes by putting out all comments. not just the ones they like.

    • huh
      July 04, 2014 - 17:01

      Don, if what you suggest were true, your comments would never appear. Suggesting that the guardian publishes only those comments they agree with, is inane.