St. Mary's Bay councils come to aid of plant workers

     Several dozen workers who didn’t get enough hours of work to qualify for employment insurance benefits at the Deep Atlantic Seafoods fish plant in St. Mary’s this past summer are finally getting help thanks to the efforts of local town councils.
     Many of the workers were laid off as early as April, reportedly because the plant’s owner could not source enough crab from fishermen. The workers went without income until a few weeks ago when councils in St. Mary’s, Gaskiers-Point la Haye, Riverhead and St. Vincent’s-St. Stephen’s-Peter’s River managed to secure provincial government funding for community work projects. The money is being provided under the Community Economic Enhancement Program.
     Gaskiers-Point La Haye Mayor Pearl Kieley said her town council has created jobs for 13 of the plant workers in her town. “They’re doing work around the community including renovations to our Community Hall,” Kieley said. “And they’re cleaning up around our water line system. They’re kept busy and at least they’ll get their stamps for this year.”
St. Mary’s Mayor Keith Bowen doesn’t return telephone calls so it’s unclear how many plant workers the council there has managed to employ with the CEEP funding. Kieley reckoned the number at a dozen. St. Vincent’s-St. Stephen’s-Peter’s River is employing about 13 people, she said, while Riverhead has one.
Kiely said a couple of people in her community didn’t manage to get CEEP work so she is hoping the town can get funding for another project. When people can’t get enough hours of work during the summer, there isn’t much work locally at other things that they can pick up, she noted.
     Kiely is worried about the future of the St. Mary’s plant, which is the main employer in the region, though many workers have moved on to jobs in other places the last few years or taken jobs locally working in home care. She is also worried that given the state of the provincial government’s finances, it may be harder to get CEEP funding next year.
     “It’s a lot of money for these three towns after coming in,” Kiely said. “If the plant doesn’t open next year, I don’t know what will happen.”

Posted on September 28, 2015 .