They came from Taiwan to work in snow crab plants. But without a fishery, they're stuck in limbo
As the stalemate between crab harvesters and plant owners continues, hundreds of people tied to the industry, including dozens of temporary foreign workers, are stuck waiting for a resolution.
Those temporary foreign workers include nearly 20 Filipino newcomers who arrived in Newfoundland and Labrador from Taiwan over the past month, recruited by Work Global Canada to work in Hickman's Harbour crab processing plant.
On Monday, Work Global Canada vice-president Wanda Cuff Young said both local and foreign workers are feeling the strain.
"It's a very challenging and difficult situation with ... a group of people all sitting, wanting to be able to work and not being able to do so," she said in an an interview with The Broadcast.
Crab boats in Newfoundland and Labrador have stayed tied on this season, with harvesters refusing to fish for $2.20 per pound of crab, the figure set by the province's price-setting panel. A tentative deal between the fisheries union and plant owners fell apart on Saturday when it was rejected by harvesters.
On Monday, politicians exchanged barbs over the stalemate during question period in the House of Assembly.
Cuff Young said the federal government does require employers to pay temporary workers for a minimum number of hours in the event of a labour disruption.
"There's conduits in place to ensure that they receive a minimum pay during those weeks so they have funds to ... buy groceries and take care of themselves," she explained.
Cuff Young said she visited the Filipino newcomers in Hickman's Harbour last week.
"I'm very confident that these candidates and the ones we brought are well taken care of," she said. "Their accommodations are superb."
According to the Association of Seafood producers, the province's 22 snow crab processing plants employ 45 to 125 seasonal temporary foreign workers per plant.
Cuff Young said another Filipino newcomer arrived Friday — and the employer is still hopeful for a solution to the crisis. But if no solution is found, Cuff Young said her company has backup plans.
"If there was any prolonged issue and things never resolved, I mean, we would work on other programs to move them to other employers," she said. "That would be a last resort."
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne declined an interview request. CBC News has asked the federal Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship for comment.