AquaChile and Camanchaca lay off hundreds following algae bloom losses

Published on
April 5, 2016

The disastrous spread of a toxic algae bloom in Chile’s Region X over the past month-and-a-half is resulting in mass layoffs for workers in factories that no longer have any salmon to process.

Camanchaca, the salmon farming company with a large presence in Region X, will eliminate a shift in its Tome plant, resulting in 400 layoffs, reported BioBioChile on 4 April. Of that total, 200 were permanent employees and an additional 200 were working on temporary contracts.

AquaChile, which also has several salmon farms in Region X, let go 293 employees working on indefinite contracts in early April, and another 44 left the company voluntarily, reported Diario Financiero. However, the company hired back 107 who received positive job performance assessments, the company said.

“AquaChile is making every effort to keep its workforce and maintain the supply of salmon so its processing plants can continue production,” the company said in a press release. “The stability ofjobs and the rehiring of workers will depend on different variables and may be adjusted depending on the availability of raw materials through the next three or four months.”

AquaChile workers may face additional layoffs in the second quarter, which typically sees a seasonal shift requiring less labor, the company added.
Industry estimates of the algal bloom’s impact put the total death count of farmed salmon in Chile at 27 million and economic losses at more than USD 800 million (EUR 702 million).

However, even before the algae crisis, Chile’s salmon industry was struggling to maintain its workforce totals. In December 2015, The Chilean Confederation of Workers of the South (Confetrasur) sent a letter to Chile Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture Raul Sunico predicting as many as 5,000 jobs could be cut from the Chilean salmon industry as a result of financial issues facing Chile’s producers.

In early February, before the algal bloom had done any harm to Chile’s salmon industry, Contrasal, Chile’s National Confederation of Salmon Workers, laid off 1,000 workers and Cermaq Chile laid off 235 permanent workers due to expected lower production volumes, according to Economía y Negocios.

It is unclear how many of the recent layoffs are due to the algae bloom versus larger market trends harming Chile’s salmon farming industry.

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