Members of the Operating Engineers Local 513 set up a picket line outside the ongoing construction at the Franklin County Jail Thursday morning, directing their protest toward plumbing subcontractor Questec.
The protest claims Questec, which is not a union company, is not paying certain workers prevailing wage at the site although it is mandated on a taxpayer-funded project.
To show solidarity to the striking local, two other contractors, KJU Construction, Washington, and K&N Steel, St. Louis, would not cross the picket lines Thursday, burning up valuable good weather days on the project.
Masons working on the jail project did cross the picket lines to continue work Thursday.
Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker says the union claims are untrue and hopes to get the issue resolved to get work back in progress.
“It’s disheartening that people refuse to go to a job site and put in a day’s work based on inaccuracy,” Brinker said. “This has nothing to do with the county and I hope this will come to a quick end.”
After conferring with Navigate Building Solutions, the firm managing the project for the county, Brinker said the consensus was to establish a secondary job site entrance for nonunion contractors.
“That was done Friday morning,” Brinker said. “I was told KJU Construction would have one crew back on the job Friday and possibly two crews back to work on Monday.”
As of press time, he had not heard from the steel contractor if they would be working Monday.
Brinker said the county received a call two weeks ago from the union asking about a non union worker operating a piece of heavy equipment on the job site.
“Presently, we are not aware of that,” Brinker said. “The county went to the nth degree to make sure local contractors were sued, but we can’t mandate they would all be union workers.”
Brinker added there is no way the county can pay less than prevailing wage and if it is violated, there would be severe monetary penalties imposed.
“As long as Questec is paying prevailing wage, there is no offense,” Brinker said. “The contractors will have to make up any days missed during the work stoppage.”
Brinker added the county internally reviewed the wages being paid to the Questec employee and they are above the mandated prevailing wage average.
“We looked at both plumbers and plumbers working as operators an they were both significantly higher,” Brinker said.