Unemployed foreign workers: processors’ association blames the market

In the past few weeks, the Richibucto Food Bank has welcomed several dozen foreign workers who work in the seafood processing sector in the region.

According to various stakeholders, the production shutdown (between fishing seasons) which is longer than usual in some factories is the trigger. Foreign workers, who sometimes have difficulty getting Employment Insurance benefits, will be without income for about six weeks.

Important challenges this year

Maritime Lobster Processors Association executive director Nathanael Richard says it’s not uncommon for factories to shut down production for a while in July, when fishing boats in the area are rigged.

It is not abnormal to have a stoppage. Normally it can be two or three weeks, maximum four weekshe explains.

Nathanael Richard

Photo: Radio-Canada / Pascal Raiche-Nogue

The decision to suspend production lines is based on several factors, including market conditions and inventory.

What we’re seeing this year, and that’s what accounts for the rather abnormal situation, is that we’ve seen quite an extraordinary deterioration in market conditions over the last few monthshe says.

Live lobster is sold at the grocery store.

Lobster in the grocery store

Photo: iStock

Nathanael Richard notes that demand for crab and lobster in the United States is falling. This is the main export market for the maritime industry.

There are some factories that have decided to slow down production. And I understand that in some cases, some have suspended production longer than usual. It’s unfortunate, but at the same time, it’s the reality we’re facing this year.he said.

This industry spokesperson weighs his words carefully to avoid sounding more alarmist than necessary. But he says many fruit processors have faced significant challenges this year.

I think there is no point in burying your head in the sand. What we see now is quite impressive.he said.

According to the press secretary, isolated cases

He also notes that not all factories suffer the same consequences. Only a few processors were forced to halt production longer than usual, he said.

I really believe that in this case we are talking about isolated cases. […] Some do better than others. But in general, no one could have predicted the weakening that we are currently seeing in the markets.

A row of people dressed in blue overalls, with blue caps on their heads and blue masks on their faces.

People at work at the Miscou Fish Products seafood processing plant in New Brunswick on April 21, 2022.

Photo: Radio Canada

Nathanael Richard adds that the process of hiring temporary foreign workers begins in the fall, several months before the spring processing season.

It becomes a bit more difficult for a plant to predict market conditions six or eight months ahead.

This surprises me a little

However, Nathanael Richard admits he is a little surprised to see foreign workers turning to food banks. This surprises me a littlehe said.

This is because the plants have recently finished their most productive period of the year.

It must be said that the employees, as a rule, will work fifty, sixty, seventy hours a week in the spring. It’s always like thathe said.

According to him, employees have the opportunity to receive hours paid at the regular rate and overtime make significant and quick savings during spring processing.

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