Shelling out; A Fishermen's Society Improved the Lot of Their Crab Processors and Turned the Industry around, as MARJORIE CALDER Reports

Article excerpt

JUST five or six years ago, one group of crab processors were standing with their wellies in buckets of hot water to fend off the cold.

The buildings they were working in at the end of a pier were condemned and partly open to the elements - and cold enough to freeze the barnacles off a dinghy.

The half-dozen full-time employees involved in boiling crabs never stayed long and were regularly paid off in winter.

They only returned next season to their jobs in these Dickensian working practices, in Stromness, Orkney, if their resolutions to find something better had not paid off.

But, in a remarkable turn-around, the Orkney Fishermen's Society is today being held up as a case study of best practice in employment and training.

And last year they scooped the title "Company of the Year" at the Drambuie Scottish Food Awards.

The society face the millennium in new premises and the only time employees need to get their wellies wet is to daily disinfect them before entering their purpose-built factory.

MUCH to their families' delight, they now wear daily laundered uniforms and protective clothing and have facilities to shower before leaving their shift.

This is in pungent contrast to 1993, when workers came home with the remnants of a day spent the day processing raw fish clinging to their clothes. …