Money, shelter and EI help offered to Paturel workers after plant fire

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Money, shelter and EI help offered to Paturel workers after plant fire

Employees of the Deer Island lobster processing plant that was razed in a fire earlier this month are getting some good news.

The company, Paturel International, says it will give financial aid to the more than 100 workers affected by the March 1 fire.

Paturel is also working with federal and provincial officials to expedite employment insurance claims and assist nearly two dozen temporary foreign workers.

"We're putting together an aid package for each one of them, which we're hoping to unveil this week and administer that to the employees," Paturel general manager Stuart McKay said Monday, though he couldn't say how much money would be given.

All of those workers are welcome to stay rent-free at company housing on the island, he said.

'Good news'

After 12 days of uncertainty, some workers could breathe a sigh of relief. Darrell Tidd was among them after previously saying Paturel "needs to step up and take ownership here" and offer financial assistance.

On Monday, Tidd was pleased with the response.

"That's good news for a lot of people," he said. "It's good to see the company is also stepping up and helping the hard-working employees that lost their jobs."

Tidd said his EI claim was processed in less than five business days.

McKay said the company was working with New Brunswick Southwest MP Karen Ludwig and local MLA Rick Doucet to fast-track the EI process.

"It is our understanding the employment insurance cheques will be issued hopefully this week to some of those employees," McKay said.

Information sessions were also held to discuss EI concerns as well as opportunities for retraining and entrepreneurship.

Foreign worker status unclear

McKay said 40 people went back to work immediately at another operation on Deer Island to avoid any interruption in business. Another 20 people will be back at work on May 1, and there's a chance of adding another 15 to 20 in the summer.

The situation is more complicated for the temporary foreign workers, who are worried about their status in Canada after losing their jobs.

McKay said the company's 22 foreign workers carry Paturel-specific permits, but the company is working with the two levels of government to ensure the workers are cared for. It's unclear yet if any will have to leave the country.

"We are trying to have these work permits changed so they can go and work for another company that has an open [labour market impact assessment] or also qualify for employment insurance benefits for the short term," he said.

Paturel is planning to rebuild, but there is no commitment yet to rebuild on Deer Island.

McKay said the investigation into the fire is continuing.