Archive for April 10th, 2009

DER investigating school site

DER investigating school site

| 10/04/2009 | 45 Comments

(CNS): In the wake of yesterday’s revelations that a significant number of qualified Caymanian construction workers had lost their jobs at the Clifton Hunter school site in Frank Sound, the Department of Employment Relations issued a statement on Friday evening saying that it had already asked the Immigration Department to stop issuing work permits to Tom Jones International (TJI). An investigation into the hiring of affected workers is underway, it stated, and the DER is asking anyone affected by this to come to the office. (Left: Nolan Hydes the former Foreman of Moises Ltd talks to TV about the layoffs)

On Friday morning (9 April) Ezzard Miller, independent candidate for North Side, called a press conference in which he assembled a number of the workers who had lost their jobs and demanded an investigation into what was actually going on at the school site and who was and was not being employed.  Following the subsequent media reports, the DER said that it was already aware of the job loses owing to the dispute between the General Contractor TJI and the local sub-contractor Moises Ltd whose contract was terminated on 26 March.  

“Just over one week later, on 3 April the DER was informed that TJI would begin hiring the affected employees directly,” the DER stated. “On 8 April the DER requested TJI to produce all records of new hires, as well as copies of contracts of employment. Simultaneously the DER, requested the Immigration Department halt the issuance of any new work permits to TJI until a complete investigation into the rehiring process of the affected workers was conducted.”

The DER said that it first became aware of the situation on 12 Marchwhen Moises Ltd, provided 141 employees to the site, of which 53 were Caymanian and the remaining 88 were expatriates. Of the expatriate contingent, 17 persons were directly employed by Moises Ltd. The rest were sub-contracted labour from other licensed construction companies.

Director, Lonny Tibbetts is now appealing to all employees affected by the dispute to contact the DER as soon as possible, so that their present employment status as well as their entitlements under the Labour Law can be ascertained. “It is the aim of the DER to ensure that the re-employment of Caymanians on the site takes priority and the best interest of the affected employees takes precedence,” he said. 

The details of the dispute between TJI and Moises are still unclear however, some of the workers told CNS yesterday they believe that TJI has accused Moises of overcharging the general contractor for the hours the men have worked and consequently stopped paying Moises, who was then unable to pay the sub-contracted labour. The potential problems regarding this development were predicted last year by others in the construction business as the bid on this and the John Gray High redevelopments were considered to be very low.

Steven Hawley, President of the Cayman Contractors Association told CNS in June that low bids should always raise eyebrows. “Profit margins in the construction industry are quite small,” he added. “If a contractor offers a bid that is as little as 10% below the other bidders, that suggests that he plans to complete the project at a loss to himself, which, of course, he would be very unlikely to want to do.”

TJI’s winning bid for the construction of the new John Grey High School was some 35% lower than the next bidder. Ian Pairaudeau, General Manager of McAlpine Limited, which has been operating in Cayman form more than 35 years, also said he believed it would be hard for TJI to complete the two schools for the price offered and it could be that subcontractors might suffer. “I am worried that local subs that work on that project could end up in trouble but the government is getting a very good deal,” he said, adding that should the project meet financial trouble it will be the government and public money in this case that will be used to bail anyone out.

The DER can be contacted on 945-3114 and is located on the 2nd Floor, Royal Plaza Building, Cardinal Ave, George Town.

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