WORK on a multi-million dollar construction project at HMAS Albatross could be brought to a standstill unless subcontractors owed millions of dollars are paid.
A number of Shoalhaven trucking companies and suppliers staged a peaceful protest on Monday morning with six trucks parking on the edge of Braidwood Road that leads into the site.
They were among at least 30 contractors owed money after Canberra-based civil engineering company Hewatt’s Earthmoving was placed in administration last week.
Subcontractors’ spokesperson Mark Nelson from Coordinated Logistics said Monday’s protest could be stepped up and has the potential to close down the work site unless they receive outstanding payments of between $3 and $5 million.
“My company alone is owed $350,000 and I know of at least 30 contractors who are owed money,” he said.
“Something has to be done. Local subcontractors can’t carry this kind of debt.”
While Mr Nelson hoped the dispute could be quickly resolved, further action, including a blockade of the site was not out of the question.
“Another major contractor has stated they will remove their workers from the building site in support,” he said.
“It could bring the whole site to a standstill.
“I would like to see Lend Lease or Defence meet with us and put somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million on the table so some of the backlog can be cleared.”
Hewatt’s Earthmoving ran into financial problems while working on a road upgrade near Canberra airport.
The firm had been undertaking earthworks for Lend Lease, the lead contractor on the construction of $138 million maintenance and training facilities for the navy’s new Seahawk helicopters at HMAS Albatross.
Mr Nelson said Lend Lease and the Defence Department were alerted in late March that contractors were behind on payments.
Two days later he was ordered off the site.
“Six weeks later and we are still owed substantial amounts of money,” he said.
“We need a resolution to this, both for ourselves and other contractors into the future.
“We have worked seven days a week on this project since its start to meet deadlines that are critical but we want money at the end of that work.”
GILMORE MP Ann Sudmalis says she supports the local subcontractors’ fight for payments.
“This has happened in our area before and keeps happening. We need to get a bipartisan resolution for this ridiculous and appalling situation where money is taken out of our economy,” she said.
“There has to be a way we can sit and talk about contracting with major contractors.
“I have organised a meeting with the minister to resolve this issue and start the negotiations.
“We have tried amicable resolutions and now both sides of government need to work together stop this happening.”
Mrs Sudmalis said she was concerned the project would not be completed on time but at the same time said she had concerns for the local subcontractors in the area.
“Defence, Lend Lease and all the other companies need to come together and get a resolution.”