AROUND 1,000 jobs in Chile's salmon industry are expected to be lost following Marine Harvest's decision to shut down 13 production centres as part of its downsizing of region 10 operations. Marine Harvest announced last week that it would be restructuring its Chilean business, which has been seriously hit by the ongoing outbreak of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA). On Tuesday, the Norwegian-owned company informed union members that between March and June it will shut down 13 production centres (eight sea-based and five fresh water facilities), according to Chilean news source The Santiago Times. Marine Harvest will also close its Teupa and Chinquihue plants. The latter, located in the Region X capital of Puerto Montt and employs some 640 people. In total, the closures will result in an estimated 1,000 lost jobs, roughly 25 percent of the company’s total workforce in Chile, the report says. As a result of the cutbacks, Marine Harvest expects to lower production in Chile by 40 percent, meaning it will likely produce some 50,000 tonnes less of farmed salmon this year. The company currently accounts for 20 percent of Chile’s total salmon production. Overall, Chilean salmon production is expected to drop by 8 percent this year because of the Marine Harvest closures.
Not surprisingly, the announced downsizing has caused concern among the Chilean salmon industry’s estimated 53,000 workers, who worry that with the country’s ISA problem far from being resolved, the upcoming Marine Harvest layoffs could be just the tip of the iceberg. “This news is critical, disastrous…because today we’re talking about Marine Harvest, but tomorrow we could be talking about any of the other companies making these types of decisions. We’ll be talking about a lot more people than those that are being laid off by Marine Harvest,” Javier Ugarte, president of the National Confederation of Salmon Industry Workers (CONATRASAL), told the Patagonia Times. So far the government hasn’t taken the issue seriously enough, according to Ugarte, who in recent months has raised his concerns about ISA-related layoffs with both the labour minister and the Chamber of Deputies’ Fishing and Aquaculture Commission. “We think the government should step in immediately and tackle the situation by providing a subsidy for those people who are being directly affected by this situation. We think the government should create the subsidy in order to offset the economic repercussions this will have in workers’ pockets,” Ugarte said.
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