Subbies left out of pocket as company abandons project

THE futures of hundreds of Pacific Highway workers are in limbo after a primary contractor, Ostwald Bros, abandoned the Glenugie to Tyndale section of the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade.

Ostwald Bros was sub-contracted by tenderer Seymour Whyte Constructions Pty Ltd to carry out early works on the Grafton bypass between Glenugie and Tyndale. But yesterday deserted machinery was all that remained at the worksites.

The Daily Examiner has been told as many as 200 highway workers have already lost their jobs.

Businesses sub-contracted to the project had no forewarning and will lose substantial sums of money as a result, according to a spokesperson for one of the larger locally-based companies contracted for this project.

"Ourselves and quite a few others have been left out of pocket to the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars," the spokesperson said.

"Our biggest problem for a long time has been incorrect communication and false hope.

"There's been discussions, partial and late payments over the past couple of months, all slowing down to the point when the last round of payments which were already overdue never eventuated.

"A lot of the other projects already have their people in place, so for many unless something else pops up out of the blue it could be a matter of leaving the area.

"There are supposed to be procedures and policies in place to avoid things like this happening.

"I don't believe it's an impact of the tender process itself as other companies have successfully completed projects. There must have been incorrect decisions made somewhere.

"Questions will be raised with Pacific Complete as per what sort of knowledge the primary contractors had and how something that is supposed to be a stimulus package can end up being a black hole."

Seymour Whyte won the tender outright from Pacific Complete in July, 2016, and Ostwald Bros came in as a sub-contractor to Seymour Whyte for stage one. Just this month the two companies were announced as joint tenders for the main civil works.

"Roads and Maritime Services and its delivery partner Pacific Complete are working with Seymour Whyte Constructions Pty Ltd to understand the issues involving payments to sub-subcontractors working for Ostwald Brothers," a Roads and Maritime Services spokesperson said.

"Roads and Maritime acknowledges each company's concerns about non-payment of outstanding fees and appreciates the difficulties companies face when confronted with these circumstances. A fact sheet is available to assist and inform about the process.

"There is no impact to work on the project as the payments relate to early work on the Glenugie to Tyndale section of the upgrade, which is nearing completion."

The Daily Examiner is awaiting comment from Ostwald Bros.

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