Workers walked off a Canberra road-building project on Wednesday amid a dispute about a contractor on the job.
And more industrial trouble looms at the Parkes Way widening job on Thursday amid allegations that an engineering firm that collapsed owing workers and contractors more than $5 million was back on the job – but under a different name.
Victorian civil engineering firm Bridge and Marine was placed in liquidation in early December after an application to the Federal Court by the Tax Office, with the firm owing more than $5 million, much of it to workers and firms in the ACT region.
Bridge and Marine was a civil engineering subcontractor for ACT government road projects at Horse Park Drive in Gungahlin and owed debts from the now completed widening of the Monaro Highway in Fyshwick and other projects.
Now the lead contractor on the $14.5 million Parkes Way project, Canberra’s Woden Contractors, wants to hire a firm closely linked to Bridge and Marine to help complete the job.
Documents from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show the same man, John Denis Thomas, holds the positions of director and secretary in both Bridge and Marine and the new contractor Civil Bridge and Wharf.
Woden did not respond to a request for an interview and Mr Thomas could not be contacted at his new business address in Melbourne’s east.
The Parkes Way project was shut down on Wednesday about 10.30am after workers on the site were made aware of an allegation that a ‘‘phoenix company’’ had been engaged on the job.
A phoenix company is a firm that appears in the place of one that has collapsed.
Melbourne-based liquidator Wayne Benton of Sellers Muldoon Benton confirmed on Wednesday that Bridge and Marine had debts of $5.4 million plus workers’ entitlements and said there would be a creditors’ meeting on Thursday with a teleconference link for non-Victorian creditors.
Steel fixer Keith Perks, who is owed about $50,000 by Bridge and Marine for work on three ACT government projects – Parkes Way, Horse Park and a pedestrian bridge at Kambah – told Fairfax Media his business was in jeopardy because of the unpaid money.
‘‘It’s a lot of money to me,’’ he said.
‘‘I already went broke last year when St Hilliers went broke, and the government didn’t do anything about it, virtually. I don’t want to have to go bust again because of someone else.
‘‘We take on government jobs, assuming that the government will protect us if something goes wrong, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.’’
A spokeswoman for the ACT Commerce and Works Department said that Civil Bridge and Wharf would have to approved by a government inspector for employment and safety compliance. ‘‘The superintendent for the project will provide a report to the Territory and make a recommendation on whether the new subcontractor is suitable,’’ she said.
‘‘This assessment by the superintendent has not yet been completed.’’
Financial checks on the engineering firm were the responsibility of the lead contractor, the spokeswoman said.
‘‘In the case of Civil Bridge and Wharf Pty Ltd, it is the responsibility of Woden Contractors to ensure relevant requirements are met,’’ she said.