One day after the Black Duck Cove fish plant burnt to the ground, distraught workers packed a local fire hall looking for answers.
The meeting came less than 24 hours after the May 15 fire destroyed the Gulf Shrimp Ltd. building.
The fire puts about 77 people out of work.
And they are worried.
Michelle Dredge, union representative at the plant, fought back tears.
She doesn’t know where people can turn right now, she told The Northern Pen on Thursday.
The workers got their pay cheque for their last shift on Friday, May 17. And for most of them their employment insurance claim from last year has either ended or will run out in the next couple of weeks.
But the mortgage payments, electricity bills and grocery bills will still be due.
“The money might stop, but the bills won’t stop,” she told The Northern Pen. “My house got to be paid for, or else I’m out the door.”
New work isn’t easy to find in the area.
“This is not St. John’s, we’re in a small community,” she said. “We can’t go and apply at WalMart, Tim Horton’s or McDonald’s, we don’t have anywhere here.”
At the meeting at the St. Barbe Fire Hall on May 16, plant manager Doug Young informed the workers that Quinlan Brothers, owners of the plant, were offering them 14 weeks of work at one of the company’s other plants in Old Perlican, on the Avalon Peninsula.
The company said the facility could accommodate the Black Duck Cove workforce.
And they would pay the workers’ accommodations at Old Perlican.
However, the plant workers were reluctant to say yes to that right away.
They said they would only accept hours in Old Perlican this summer if the company made a firm commitment to rebuild in Black Duck Cove.
Following the meeting they gathered signatures for a letter to Quinlan’s, saying they will only accept work in Old Perlican if they get a commitment from Quinlan’s for a new plant in Black Duck Cove.
“We got to have answers, we can’t jump the gun and say we’re going to Old Perlican,” union representative Eva Applin told The Northern Pen. “I’m not willing to leave my home and go to Old Perlican for 14 weeks every year.”
Calvin Taylor, 35, a forklift operator, said he can’t move to Old Perlican and leave his mother behind.
“My mother is 62 years old with bad legs and I can’t leave her,” he told The Northern Pen. “She can’t bring down a bag of garbage, can’t pack up wood.”
Yet finding other employment in the area, in the meantime, will be very difficult, if not impossible for these workers.
The plant was the main employer.
The worry is growing.
Many people have various obligations and family members to take care of, said Applin.
And for some residents the plant was providing two incomes for the family.
“You got people with mortgages on their homes, you got people with small kids, you got husbands and wives in that plant – I don’t know where they’re going to turn,” said Applin. “Right now, every day is hours going for those people.”
Without a plant in Black Duck Cove, she says the very future of the community is at stake.
“The community here is going to die,” said Applin.
The Northern Pen will continue to provide updates, at www.northernpen.ca