Mowi Canada East lays off 40 staff, but temporary income support meant that workers turned down identical jobs at Cooke

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Cooke’s True North Seafood offered to give staff jobs as facility is next to Mowi site. But feeling is that “benefits may be keeping people out of the workforce”.

CBC reports that a temporary income system meant that workers laid off from a Mowi site in New Brunswick, East Canada, passed up jobs at a Cooke facility next door, a minutes drive away.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs appeared to blame the Employment Insurance (EI) program, like the now wound-down Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provides temporary income support to unemployed workers while they look for employment.

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Mowi Canada East spokesperson Jason Card told the publication that about 40 or 41 workers had been laid off due to a lack of salmon. They could come back in supply increases, but “but there’s no guarantee of that,” said Card.

Cooke Aquaculture vice-president public relations Joel Richardson told the publication that it had immediately made the job offers (“it’s actually identical work,” he said) to those who left, but only one joined. Cooke’s True North Seafood site is located on Fundy Bay Drive, next to Mowi Canada East, and has 100 vacancies at any given time.

Richardson said he did not blame the EI system for workers turning down jobs. But he added: “I think there is a sentiment across New Brunswick, not just in our operation but from other manufacturing and processing operations, that some of those benefits may be keeping people out of the workforce”.

CBC added that Cooke hired temporary foreign workers for the first time this year.