SYSCO liquidator's role in cleanup questioned

By Wes Stewart
Cape Breton Post
Thursday, Mar. 4, 2004

Former steelworkers want the province to confirm they will have work in the remediation of the Sysco site.

Premier John Hamm said this week he may broaden the role of the Sysco receivers, Ernst & Young, in the remediation of the tar ponds, coke ovens and Sysco sites.

Workers are worried a plan by the provincial government to involve the Sysco receiver in the remediation of the site will sidetrack the work they have been doing all along.

United Steelworkers of America Local 1064 president Mike Buchanan said he was "appalled " by Hamm's remarks in Wednesday's edition of the Cape Breton Post. The premier said he would be receptive to a broader role for E & Y given their record on the speedy demolition of the former steel plant. The union president has written Hamm seeking a meeting to clarify the province's position.

Crown agency Sydney Environmental Resources Ltd.'s board is meeting today to discuss its budget and is expected to hear recommendations on dismantling the tar ponds incinerator and merging SERL with Sysco.

"We have a Crown corporation (SERL) operating since 1991 that we never heard anything bad about their work and now they want to bring in a private company who will charge a management fee," said Buchanan.

"We (the union) represent SERL employees and we've done a good job, so why change it. Members see this as a deliberate attempt to get rid of the union, " Buchanan said. SERL has about 30 people doing security and asbestos clean up on the site.

Liberal Sysco critic Manning MacDonald said E & Y went into that plant three years ago with the sole purpose of liquidating the assets of the Crown-owned mill.
"Lately they have been given the expanded role over the coke ovens," said MacDonald, who wonders why this is being done without a tender process.

He figures E & Y has been paid more than $3 million in fees from the province.
"Here we have an agency (SERL) who should be given the opportunity to do this expanded work, apparently the door is being shut on them."

MacDonald wants to know if government will insist local people and contractors are hired to do the next stage in the remediation of the site.