Fish plant workers needed in P.E.I.

Jim Day
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Dennis King

There is little sugar coating in these classified ads looking to attract fish plant workers.

Work conditions, notes one, include repetitive tasks, standing for extended periods of time, handling heavy loads and working in a cold environment.

Another sizes up the workplace as: "Noisy; odours; cold/refrigerated.''

Add modest wages to the mix and the task of separating and removing lobster meat or processing other sea critters like snow crab or herring simply does not appeal to the masses.

"It's a tough fill to get people to come,'' says Lynn Rayner, production manager of Acadian Supreme Inc. in Abram-Village.

"I think it's the stigma. People don't want to work in a fish plant.''

So, like other fish plant operators, Dean Hancock, owner of Belle River Enterprises Ltd., has been working to make the job more appealing.

He plans to increase the starting hourly wage at his plant when he opens May 1 to start processing lobster and crab.

"I've had people in my plant for 30 years, but that group is retiring,'' he explains.

"It's difficult to recruit and fill those spots...I don't think anyone is going to come from the oil patch to work in a fish plant in P.E.I.''

Overall, the industry is offering greater incentives to potential employees, says Dennis King, executive director of the P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association.

The plants are more aggressive in recruiting workers, offering better wages, more flexibility in work hours, and even in some cases day care assistance.

"Everybody is trying to bring in workers,'' says King.

He says 1,600 to 1,700 people work in processing lobsters, mussels, halibut in about 20 plants across the province.

Last year, the plants collectively were short of their desired complement by 300 to 500 workers.

Rayner says each of the last three or four years her plant could have used an additional 50 employees.

She expects to be short again when processing of lobsters and rock crab begin by May. Her Acadian Supremeplant needs 220-240 workers to run lines effectively at peak times. 

King says the industry has realized the need to reduce the reliance on temporary foreign workers.

Rayner also hopes to get more locals working at Acadian Supreme.

"We are being more flexible this year with the hopes of bringing more local people in,'' she says.

Organizations: Acadian Supreme, Belle River Enterprises, P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association

Geographic location: P.E.I., Abram-Village

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Recent comments

  • Jerry
    May 28, 2016 - 17:25

    I don't know where all those jobs are their talking about up there, I'm from Newfoundland and i been trying for over a month now to get one of them, I was working at Quinlans when it burned as a Night Cleaner, I sent 35 Resumes and seems no one is interested,

  • J
    March 23, 2016 - 06:23

    chris, use the months you are off work from the fish plant and on E.I. to do spend time with family and friends.

  • rob
    March 22, 2016 - 20:21

    wait a minute does the job description not sound like the panhandlers. standing for long periods of time. working in a cold environment. repetitive tasks. drive down queen st and pick them up.

  • Amanda Benoit
    March 22, 2016 - 13:56

    My husband and grown family have job's in the fishplant this year in pei.....We all have no problems with the work our only problem is finding places to stay.....Renter's want long term tenants,they want a arm and leg for rent not including damage deposit ,fees for holding the apt and they want refrences...How do I get refrences when I've never rented...i own my own home....that's why ppl get turned off of these job's also theres no accommodations.

  • billy bob
    March 22, 2016 - 09:33

    All they want is for foreign workers and the ones. That want to work cant fine a job. If it was up to them they just hire all foreign workers. There lots on welfare that could work but hey that not going to happen

  • chris
    March 22, 2016 - 08:01

    I've worked in a fish plant for many years and I can honestly say that the biggest issue with fish plant are the hours 14-18 hour days 7 days a week takes a toll on people. We have families but when you work those kinds of hours for month on end it's really exhausting. It's literally work eat shower sleep laundry dishes cooking meals. There is no time for family friends or to enjoy life at all that is why a lot of people do not stay in this type of work. I drive over an hour to the plant I work at because we get 50-60 hours and the most awesome thing about this plant we get Sunday the 4 years I've been working there I've only had to work two Sundays

  • Ally
    March 21, 2016 - 18:50

    Fish plant is not for everyone. I tried it, lasted a week but the smell made me sick. I was gagging and vomiting. My co workers didn't seem to notice the smell so maybe some can handle it and others can't.

  • J
    March 21, 2016 - 09:33

    There are plenty of people on E.I. and other social programs who could do this work but refuse to, surely any job is better than no job.