School dispute escalates

| 29/09/2009

(CNS): Problems with the school development projects escalated Monday when the developer Tom Jones International (TJI) became embroiled in a dispute on the Clifton Hunter site at Frank Sound with a local labour broker. With work now at a standstill on the John Gray site and TJI in dispute with government over non-payment, the contractor moved full time workers employed directly by TJI to Clifton Hunter and told the labour broker to reduce his workers at the site accordingly. But Brent McLean (left) refused as he said the TJI workers  were on permits and were pushing out his Caymanian men. (Photo courtesy of News 27)

McLean told CNS that since the last dispute with TJI he has had 37 Caymanian workers on the Frank Sound site, but at 6pm on Friday evening an email was dispatched by the general contractor telling East End Steel to remove 30 workers by Monday morning. McLean said that his workers, however, turned up for work as usual as the email came too late to notify them. When they arrived they reportedly encountered non-Caymanian workers in their place and refused to leave. McLean told CNS that he intended to fight this issue as it was not fair that Caymanians were being replaced by foreign labour. He said the workers staged a sit-in, and while the police were called the RCIPS concluded it was a civil matter and left.

“We are taking a stand this time,” said McLean “It is not going to happen that TJI can replace local workers with foreign labour. We are not playing games with TJI anymore. The reality is this is a government project, being funded by the people of the Cayman Islands and Caymanians are going to work on that site.”  

TJI, however, has denied that any of the labourers sent from John Gray were work permit holders but has insisted that they were all Caymanians laid off as a result of the government’s non-payment of the contract at that site. TJI  said every one of the construction workers from the JGHS site sent to Clifford Hunter were Caymanians. As opposed to being temporary employees employed through labour contractors, as is the case with those employed by East End Steel, these men were full time Caymanian employees of TJI, a spokesperson for TJI stated.

Rather than being foreigners pitted against Caymanians as East End Steel is suggesting, the general contractor insists that these were Caymanians in full time work with TJI. The contractor admitted that there are other work permit holders on site but not one of the labourers brought from JGHS was on a permit.

Meanwhile, TJI has also responded to the government regarding the dispute over the money due for the JGHS project. In a full page advertisement in the Caymanian Compass that will appear Tuesday (29 September) TJI has set out its side of the dispute and insists that government has defaulted.

Although anxious to return to work, Hunter Jones, the director of TJI, says his firm is a construction company and not a bank. “Government must meet its obligations under its contract which was negotiated and signed by the former administration,” he says in the full page statement.

He sets out the full story of the increasing costs on the school projects and says major design changes presented a significant financial problem to the previous government.

“These corrections and additions were significant, adding millions to the total cost of the projects and, of course, extending the time line to complete the projects. Significantly, Government had not budgeted any funds for these contingencies,” TJI has stated in the advertisement.

The contractor explains that it offered to take out a loan to help the previous government keep the schools on track as the administration had exceeded its borrowing limits for the 2008/09 year. As a result of a meeting with government, TJI secured a short-term line of credit of $12 million from a local bank to purchase equipment and materials from overseas as well as to fund change orders.

Jones said the PPM administration agreed, promising to allocate a previously scheduled $10.5 million “balloon payment” in July 2009 — when government entered its new fiscal year — to pay off the bridge loan. “While it was highly unusual for us to take out a bank loan to, in effect, pay ourselves," said Jones, “it was the only way to keep the project going.”

The contractor states that government never made its promised “balloon payment”, but the new government encouraged TJI to negotiate further with its bank (Scotiabank) to extend the due date of the loan and increase the amount to fundboth projects, giving all parties an opportunity to explore a public/private partnership  to restructure the financing of the projects.

However, the contractor says no deal has been made and in the interim the monthly payments for work done and costs incurred need to be paid.  Jones explained that the amounts due have been submitted to the government’s quantity surveyor, who has verified and certified them.

 In July, TJI said it submitted its application for payment, which was certified for approximately $3.6 million, due 10 September. No payment was received by 17 September and the following day TJI gave formal notice that it would stop work one week later until payment was forthcoming. Jones said no payment was made by 24 September so the site was closed down.

Jones added that it is only in recent days that government has asserted that TJI was one day late in submitting its application for payment which would mean that funds are not due until October, which he strongly refutes. Government is now also alleging that it has overpaid TJI on the project.

“This is nonsense,” said Jones. “Government’s Quantity Surveyor and Architect ‘certified’ our application for payment and confirmed the date it was contractually due. The Government apparently is willing to risk the jobs of 200 people – many of them Caymanian – and jeopardize the John Gray project and the entire educational system on an invalid 24-hour technicality.”

Nevertheless, Jones has said he remains hopeful that the issues can be resolved and his company and the Ministry of Education can move forward.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Just a small little statement from little old me…. recently i placed an add in the newspaper for a Carpenter, I had NO applications from Labor Department for any real Caymanians, you want to know what they sent me, CONTACTS FOR PEOPLE IN JAMAICA!!!!!!!!!!! I was blown away! I personally know two ex-pats that have married here so they can get work here, but still send their money home same way. To correct this problem start at the top.. IMMIGRATION do your job, Gary Wong you are the top dog now on this project do the job good. Go on these construction sites and YOU WILL FIND THE ILLIGAL WORKERS ON SITE.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Is it true that Tom Jones has over 60 % caymanians working?

    We should check on this.  If that is the case they should be praised for theyre effort to keep our people working.

    I think that more of our young people need to get a chance to get a job on these projects.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mac & Rolston,


    We need the Library open until at 9pm we somewhere quiet to STUDY.

  4. Anonymous says:

    So where are my kids going to go to school next year? John Gray is a building site and knowing this government Cliton hunter will be shut down as well



  5. Anonymous says:

    Rolstin is not doing his job. What is he doing? Trying to find a technicality to save money instead of doing his JOB, which is to care about the future education of MY children.


    Build our schools Rolstin. Find the money.



  6. anonymous1 says:

    I am a Caymanian and knowing what I know about contract employees, Tom Jones is right.  Temporary labour is temporary labour.  Contract employees come first.  If all he says is true he is really doing more than most contractors would.  Taking out a loan to pay himself.  Come on people, which contractor would do that? 

    The expa/Caymanian thing is making me cringe.  Please stop.  Yes, times are tough.

    I have a suggestion for everyone, get a book called "7 Habits of Highly Effective People".  Start with the chapter "win-win".

    • Nonnie Mouse says:

      "Win/win" is so right but it seems so few understand it works best in the hardest of times.  Fear and defensiveness are easier emotions. 

      The economy is not a zero-sum game, if we create more business we all gain.  Protectionism and harming the Cayman economy will only hurt all the community in the mid-term.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “The Government apparently is willing to risk the jobs of 200 people – many of them Caymanian – and jeopardize the John Gray project and the entire educational system on an invalid 24-hour technicality.”


     – sounds like the government are clutching at straws. Try not to be so obvously desperate guys.

  8. noname says:

    Does anyone know if McAlpine was paid for the fancy administration building? must have been, as nothing has been in the press.

    Don’t build the schools, build the new administration building. The civil servants need only the best remember, plush offices with a great view.

    Wonder how much their kitchens cost.

    But of course, the governments priority is their civil servants, and not their future: the children of Cayman.

    • Crises management says:

      Do we really need a new office building during this time of financial crises.  I makes more sense to finish John Gray and maybe delay Clifton Hunter and the new office building in George Town.  This would at least provide one school to the children and secure more work for the construction workers for the future.  Where are all the workers going to make a living after this building boom anyway.

  9. A concerned Caymanian says:

    Noone seems to have read the rest of the article. It goes on to speak about the Govt not being able to pay for the schools and Tom Jones getting out a loan to save their butts!!!

    I will be the first person to say: thanks Tom Jones. I have seen a lot of bashing on this site about the company, but at the end of the day, they have a contract which the government won’t pay them for.

    Now Govt: pay up and lets get back on track with these schools.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree.


      Pay up, get Roffey and Tom Jones back to work.


      Build the schools. God knows we need them

  10. Casual Observer says:

    I am fed up of the constant Tom Jones bashing.

    It is quite simple to me.

    The Client (in this case the CI Govmt) has not paid the Contractor (TJI). As a result TJI has moved it’s employee’s (almost all Caymanians) to another project which they are working on to ensure it’s own employee’s are kept in work. East End Steel (a Labour broker) are no longer required to supply labour as TJI now has enough of it’s own and therefore must leave the site.

    As one poster has said, rather than East End Steel dictating how TJI should be running it’s project, maybe they should go out and find other work for their employee’s.

    From what i see, TJI have acted in the interests of their Caymanian employee’s and unfortunately, East End Steel, as a Sub – Contractor is a casulty of the CI Govmt not paying the TJI for the construction of the schools.

    Seems to me, that the CI Govmt is happier to make payments on the construction of their new office building rather than pay for the future education of the Islands. Typical self serving politians…..

    • Anonymous says:

      You have it right!

      I’m sick of all the poticial bs. Pay up Rolstin, and get the schools built.

      East End: try not to burn all your birdges and fine your guys work. Stop this media bashing of your client and find work for your guys.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed. All this government is doing is building its employees a fancy building and cheating the children of Cayman out of their future.


      Nice one.

  11. Anonymous says:

    A concern of mine is that there are elements within the Cayman society who actually seem to fan the flames of discontent and I fear that some sort of violence will be the result.

    The people who will be targets for violence are Expat laborers who were brought here by local people to work. They are the pawns who are expendable and easily replaced. What would be nice is to see and hear of the Caymanians who are bringing the Expat workers here as until they are named and shamed cheap foreign labor will continue to displace Caymanians.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Immigration needs to get it together. Stop blaming the employees and employers, they only do what they get away with (and you would do the same)! Why is immigration still giving out work permits when there is a shortage of jobs for Caymanians, especially in an industry where certain skills can easily be acquired on the job. Has immigration been following up in general with individuals whos work permits expired or were cancelledto ensure that these person actually left the island?

  13. Anonymous says:

    To Knal N. Domp; East End Steel/Labour currently employ ONLY Caymanians. So he as a Caymanian is looking out for his Caymanian people not just East Enders or North Siders.

    • Anonymous says:

      So East end should not be upset that their workers were replaced by Caymanian workers from John Gray.

  14. Knal N. Domp says:

    Not to muddy da watta, so to speak, but it would be useful if Brent could tell us how many of his own expat permit-holders are working for East End Labour/Steel on this (and any other) project, if any?

    After all, it would be a little deflating to all concerned if Brent is simply displacing a foreign ‘Caymanian" construction firm’s expat workers with his own expat workers under the guise of "East End North Side Caymanians first in, last out" in order to preserve his fee?

  15. Anonymous says:

    The bottom line is that Caymanians refuse to do certain types of work and also refuse to work for what others are willing to work for. There is therefore no choice but to hire outside workers to do these jobs. What about the Labour Broker who constantly gets Caymanians referred to them from the Employment Relations Unit and when they are sent out on jobs some do not even last a day, some after the first pay check don’t go back, some simply complain that the sun is too hot??? Being a Labour Broker is a legitimate business, a business which requires dependable, hardworking and dedicated workers. Saying that we should get rid of Labour Brokers is not the answer to the problem we have with Caymanians not wanting to work. That is why the previous administration put so much emphasis on schools and education. Our people need to be educated so they can secure good jobs.

  16. TruthBtold says:

    As an expat, I fully agree that if anyone is to be laid off these sites, it should be expats first, rather than Caymanians. If this situation were to occur in the homelands of any expat on this island, there would be similar protests.

    • Anonymous says:

      If we were comparing apples with apples then you are right. unfortunately you have not read the story or you would see that. The main contractor has full time contracted employees that are not needed at his main site so he has moved them to the second sight which he is presently paying non-contract temporary labourers via a sub-contractor to do.

      Obviously regardless of the nationality he has to put the permanent full time contractor employees before temporary casual labourers. In your workplace, if you hired full time staff and temps and business slowed down you would obviously get rid of the temps before the full time staff, regardless of nationality/race/gender/hair colour because it is easier to get rid of casual labour than contracted employees that you may be liable to pay redundancy payments etc.

      As usual a minority of narrow minded Caymanians are turning it into a race issue when it is a simple business decision. It is probably the same minority that beat their wives, poison their dogs, fiddle with the kiddies and shoot each other for no reason, so the civilised society should just ignore them.

  17. Anonymous says:

    What company isn’t allowed to keep their own workers in employment, but have to keep a subcontractor in work?

    Doesn’t make sense to me.

    Maybe East End should be finding alternative work for their men, instead of spending all their time protesting.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Having watched Mr McLean’s performance on Cayman 27 last night, and more noticably the ‘ henchmen ‘ at the side of the road advocating aggressively ‘ support for EE Steel by any means possible,’ must make some employers wonder, why they continue to do business in the Cayman Islands.

    These protectionist and national ideals are admirable, but the world has changed. Businesses have to be efficient more than ever, just to survive. Employees are procured not on the basis of where they were born, but how qualified and productive they are, and also (unfortunately) how cheap their willing to work for. In addition to this it is illegal in many parts of the world to hire of fire based on that employees nationality or religion.

    The Olympic village in London is currently being constructed by thousands of Eastern Europeans, meanwhile thousands of British construction workers are unemployed. If the British workers pulled a stunt like EE Steel did yesterday, with their ‘ sit in ‘, make no mistake about it, the police would have moved in.

    I guess what I’m trying to say, is that this should not be a Caymanian/ Expat battle, it should be a realisation, that during these hard times, everyone has to be as efficient as they can be to retain their positions, because as Darwin says, ‘ only the fittest will survive’. Every employee needs to forget about their connections, and simply be the best they can be, at their job, because this current economy is NOT going to ‘ carry anybody’.


    • China tire tariff says:

      Surely you have not heard about protectionism..It exists worldwide…America and China with the tire situtation recently…

      America and it’s vast agricultural subsidities which chokes out our caribbean farmers..

      The list goes on and on and Britian is right there with America hand and hand so don’t feed us your lame story..why do you think the British took the port in Iraq and left the rest to America?? Don’t feed us your UK sh*t we will protect ours you protect yours the only difference is who you choose to protect we choose the small man you choose the rich…UK is full of slaves if you ask me and we are now free it’s funny how the world works…

      what comes around goes around..what goes up must come down

      • Anon says:

        Not sure that you are free – this country is owned by the Crown, just ask the Queen. Until Cayman is independant this will continue to be the case.

  19. Anonymous says:

    No one should be hired or fired because of their nationality or whether or not they are on work permits. From what I can see is that: tji are looking after their own staff first instead of sub-contracted labour….. makes sense.

  20. Dump him says:

    TJI should stop using McLean’s "labor broking" business completely if he thinks he can force his sub-contracting employees in ahead of employees of the contractor. 

  21. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully level headed people will prevail and realize that there is a real underlying problem here in Cayman.

    We must get beyond nationalistic rants to underlying realities effecting employers in this country.

    The differences between foreign and domestic workers need to be rationally addressed for real solutions to be found.


  22. Anonymous says:

    Once again Tom Jones are playing games with the people of these Islands by diverting attention away from the real problem. 

    The problem here, is not the workers that came from the John Gray site, but in fact the work permit holders that they have maintained on the North Side (Cliffton Hunter Site)

    Can Tom Jones confirm how many work permits they hold for workers on the Cliffton Hunter site?  


  23. Anonymous says:

    Guaranteed employment and protectionist employment policies, however well intended are not encouraging school leavers to strive for anything other than a minimum wage job. Cayman is rising generations of children who can only compete on this Island. When times are tough the foreign workers head to other jurisdictions, what must the Caymanian do…..move to East End because they cannot compete on an international level!? Build the school but I hope that the leaders of this island realize that another school is not going to guarantee future employment for the children of this island, unless the schools can raise a new generation of children who strive to compete on an international level.  

    • da wa ya get says:

      Firstly, I applaud East End Steel for having a policy of employing Caymanians…in these times, it is very hard to find an employer who looks out for their employees like they do; and it is even rarer to find an employer who looks out for the best interests of Caymanians.

      Secondly, what exactly is it that you are trying to imply when you ask, "When times are tough the foreign workers head to other jurisdictions, what must the Caymanian do…..move to East End because they cannot compete on an international level!?"

      I’ll have you know that many an East Ender has contributed to this society and other societies on an international level. 

      Furthermore, it seems that you have not taken the time to educate yourself properly on the education reform plan. Too many people are of the notion that the reform was only about the school facilities. The entire idea behind the reform was for us, as a country, to be able to produce children who not only STRIVE to compete on an international level, but to produce children who could ACTUALLY compete on an international level.

      Proof that the reform that Alden initiated was working can be seen in this years exam results. There was some 20% rise in passes; this was in no small part due to the change in curriculum.

  24. $$$$ says:

    Well there increases the costs of any government contracting if the "labor brokers" don’t understand the difference between contracts and sub-contracts.

    • ccccccc says:

      You may want to clarify your point, because as it stands, it makes no sense whatsoever.  Just a thought.