Local Tradespeople halt work at tar ponds site

Cape Breton Post
Wed., Nov. 19, 2008

About 75 out-of-work labourers and equipment operators were stationed near the Sydney Port Access Road at the former Sydney steel plant site Tuesday morning.

They prevented construction on a segment of the $400-million tar ponds cleanup after hearing the contractor had brought in skilled workers from Alberta. "Itís a non-union contractor thatís in here and they come in with their own employees from out West," said protester Wally Jardine, who was laid off from the site Friday. "Theyíve been stating that they had to bring in these expertise operators because nobody down here seems to be qualified to do it, which is ridiculous."

Hazco Environmental Services was awarded a $800,000 contract to construct two underground cut-off walls to prevent groundwater from entering or leaving the site. The walls are to be built along the north and south sides of the 68-hectare property and are meant to prevent contaminated particles from leaching out.

Sydney Tar Ponds Agency communications officer Tanya Collier MacDonald said that while the agency takes local economic benefits into consideration when awarding contracts, the agency canít prevent successful bidders from hiring out-of-province workers or non-unionized workers. "We donít dictate who the contractor has on their site," she said. "We donít have any control over that. We donít tell them how to run their businesses, is what Iím trying to say." Collier MacDonald said agency officials would be responsible for filing a court injunction to prevent the protesters from interfering again, but added that they are hoping to find a peaceful resolution.

District 7 Counc. Jim MacLeod visited the protesters and said there is no need for Hazco to hire out-of-province workers when a Cape Bretoner could do the job. "When it was first brought forward it was to have people from Cape Breton whenever possible. Well, the equipment Iím looking at, we have very qualified operators here and thatís what it should be," MacLeod said.

Most of the protesters gathered near the site of the barrier wall said they have already travelled West for work. "It seems like every time there is work on the site here, we have to get together and do this to get to work here," said Jardine. "We have a gentlemen here, he lives in the third house right there. He can sit on his patio and watch people from out in Calgary working while heís home."

Hazco project manager Christopher MacDonald did not return phone calls.

epottie@cbpost.com