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Another 500 Jobs Lost to Chile's ISA Crisis

06 March 2009

CHILE - An expected surge in salmon industry layoffs appears to be taking shape now that southern Chile’s salmon companies – after prematurely harvesting their stocks – are reportedly running out of fish to process.

Chilean-owned Cultivos Marinos this week issued pink slips to approximately 370 contracted workers in its Ancud, Chiloé processing plant. The company let another 150 seasonal workers go last week, writes Benjamin Witte of The Patagonia Times.

“A lot of those people had worked for the company for years. They were part of the company,” union leader John Hurtado told the Patagonia Times. “Many people left with tears in their eyes, crying, not knowing what’s going to happen to them now that they’re unemployed.”

“We discussed this issue with the company last October. They told as that because of the crisis (caused by the ISA virus) there were going to be a series of layoffs,” said the union head. “They said they’d cut jobs at the end of March or the first half of April. Either way, they said they’d give us lots of warning, but that didn’t happen.”

Between mid 2007 (when Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) was first discovered in Chilean waters) and November 2008, salmon companies here axed an estimated 7,500 jobs. ISA is a highly contagious virus that can be lethal to fish but does not affect humans. Companies say the yet-to-be-contained outbreak is costing them millions and forcing them to close salmon farms and processing plants.

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