JW Marriott needs to give its contractors a lesson in battle-picking.
The ongoing saga of the company’s new Austin, Texas construction has now been boiled down one $5,000 check. A check, comprised of backpay for 13 workers, that the company doesn’t want to write.
The deadline for White Lodging — the contractor on the project — to settle this wage dispute has come and gone and the company continues to argue that it does not have to pay prevailing wages on the project henceforth. The city council believes otherwise.
After receiving $3.8 million in tax incentives to land the job, White Lodging went into anti-wage mode:
Here’s the scoop via The Austin Business Journal:
City staff initiated an audit on the project in February and determined that 13 workers were due a cumulative $5,000 in back wages. White Lodging was informed of this and indicated to the city that it was making “a limited payment of wages” in order to continue discussion, according to city documents.
But the company had not satisfied city requirements by the due date of June 4. The city had asked for White Lodging to pay the workers and to provide proof by setting up city officials to meet with four of the affected workers and submitting pay stubs, according to a letter from the city of Austin to White Lodging CEO Den Yiankes.
In the same letter, the city also requested payroll documentation of all employees from the beginning of the project to May 31, 2013. If the company is determined to have been in violation of the policy, it could have to refund the waivers granted by council.
White Lodging has acknowledged its receipt of these requests, but has stated that the city’s most recent requests contradict correspondence received from the assistant city manager on August 16, 2011, relating to the prevailing wage issue, according to a letter to the city from Yiankes.
We touched on that correspondence when updating the story in February, quoting the Austin-Statesmen:
A member of White Lodging’s Austin development team points to summer 2011 as the starting point for today’s disagreement. Near the end of the meeting at which the City Council approved the tax-incentive package, White Lodging did agree to follow the prevailing-wage scale the city uses when it hires construction workers. That scale is set by the federal government, which does county-by-county surveys to determine what a carpenter or electrician or plumber typically makes.
White Lodging says after it agreed to the deal, the company and city officials quickly determined the terms were untenable, and that if all electricians, pipe fitters and sheet metal contractors were paid prevailing wages, the increased costs for those three jobs alone would exceed what White Lodging saves with the incentives.
White Lodging is insisting on paying workers what it claims was negotiated with former Assistant City Manager Rudy Garza. Current city officials question the wages and want to tackle the issue during their next meeting. For White Lodging, missing the $5,000 backpay deadline is a unique way of showing “good faith.”