Tuesday, January 20, 2004 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Herald file
Manning MacDonald says the province is doing damage control on the Sysco cleanup.

Sysco cleanup contracting to be reviewed

By The Canadian Press and Amy Smith / Provincial Reporter

The Nova Scotia government will re-examine how it issues contracts for work done at the old Sydney Steel site.

Unionized steelworkers laid off when the provincial Crown corporation shut down in January 2000 have been protesting outside the mill's main gate for several days.

They are upset that stevedores from New Brunswick and Quebec were brought in to load scrap metal on a ship. The 23,000 tonnes of material was sold by Sydney Steel Corp., through its liquidator Ernst and Young, to the American firm Hugo Neu for $3 million US.

Hugo Neu hired stevedores from the Quebec firm SNF Metals because the scrap deal didn't force it to hire locally.

Energy Minister Cecil Clarke said Monday it's important to put a work policy in place to clarify the situation for everyone's benefit.

Talks continue between the steelworkers' union and Hugo Neu.

Liberal MLA Manning MacDonald said it's obvious the government is trying to keep an unpleasant situation from getting worse.

"I believe (talks) are nothing more than a reaction to take the heat off," the Cape Breton South MLA said Monday.

He said the province "clearly dropped the ball" by not insisting the work be done by locals.

John Traves, president of Sysco, said Hugo Neu approached two or three local contractors but they didn't have the insurance and/or equipment to do the job.

He said in future Sysco would try to make the use of local labour a condition in any sale of scrap steel. But he said that also hinges on finding a local contractor with the right equipment.