Small contractors yesterday accused the Government of not caring about their survival.
Displaying a coffin during a protest for work on the billion-dollar Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension to Point Fortin project yesterday, the contractors claimed they have been trying without success to get the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) to intervene and assist them in getting subcontracts on the project.
The contractors claimed that under OAS Contrutora, the Brazilian company that acquired the original contract before forfeiting it after going bankrupt, at least 150 small contractors had gotten work on the highway then.
Protesting outside of the former OAS Construtora headquarters in Golconda, sub-contractor Alastair Ramharack lamented, “We lobby with NIDCO for the past two years with regards to sub-contractors that had heavy losses from the previous operators from OAS to facilitate us in this new drive of the highway.
“For two years we had lobbied through NIDCO and all we hearing from NIDCO is that we talking to the Minister of Works with regards to small contractors being employed in the Point Fortin to Solomon Hochoy Highway. To date, there is less than ten contractors that is employed in this project, which is over $5 billion. And when we speak to NIDCO, NIDCO is only saying the Minister of Works haven’t get back to them.”
After OAS abandoned the project, the Government took legal action in the local and international courts to recover the close to $1 billion which had already been paid to the company for the contract.
Ramharack also claimed that some small contractors and former OAS workers were still owed money for work previously done on the project.
“There is contractors that work in this highway since 2018 cannot be paid off and cannot be paid the variation money. To date, again they have been lobbying with NICDO to intervene and NIDCO has been numb with regards to this action.”
He said if the Government was concerned about small contractors getting work on the highway, they would have put in specifications in the clause to ensure that main contractors give out work to small contractors.
“We hearing a set of political gimmick from both sides but we not hearing where politicians are saying people matter.”
He said if their concerns are not addressed they will take their protest to Port-of-Spain.
However, NIDCO chairman Herbert George said yesterday that he was not aware of any talks between NIDCO and small contractors regarding the project. He said NIDCO has taken steps to ensure that the project was awarded to local contractors. The contractors doing the project are Junior Sammy, General Earth Movers Ltd and Namalco Construction Services Ltd.
“What NIDCO cannot do is mandate that small contractors get jobs,” George said.
He said the project is not about building drains and sidewalks but involves heavy civil engineering work.
Responding to the contractors’ claim that they were in talks with NIDCO, he said, “Those emotive statements, they have certain effects and they just use them without any desire to speaking the truth.”