Stop work orders issued to subcontractors working in New London

New London - The state Department of Labor issued nine stop work orders Friday to several subcontractors at the Bates Woods housing construction site for violating labor laws.

Members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters were protesting at the Jefferson Avenue site Tuesday after the state charged that the subcontractors were either employing independent contractors to avoid paying workers' compensation insurance or they were under-reporting the number of people on their payrolls.

Raymond Stratoti, labor compliance director for the Carabetta Organization, which is reconstructing the moderate-income housing and will manage the project, confirmed that the Labor Department has asked for information and the company is complying.

Carabetta has already addressed several of the violations, he said, and work at the Jefferson Avenue site continues.

The violations were discovered during a regular inspection Friday, said Gary Pechie, director of the wages and workplace standards division at the Labor Department. Red "stop work" orders were posted on the signs at the construction site.

The labor department has visited 78 work sites during the past four months and looked at the records of 355 contractors, issuing 115 stop work orders. Of the contractors that were reviewed, 32 percent had violations, Pechie said, noting that one-third of them were from out of state.

On Friday, 35 people working on the site and on Tuesday, the number was 27, he said.

"Basically, if a subcontractor is not paying wages, we terminate the contractor and the general contractor pays the wages,'' Stratoti said. "We are doing our investigation, too."

Carabetta is rehabilitating about 150 two- and three-bedroom moderate-income rental units at Bates Woods and at Briarcliff off Colman Street. The company has a long-term lease for the land from the New London Housing Authority. Carabetta will own and manage the apartments when construction is complete.

Pechie said the names of all workers at construction sites must be listed on a payroll and covered by workers' compensation insurance. Fines can range from $300 to $1,000 a day per worker for violations, he said.

No fines have been levied at the Carabetta site, he said.

"But we're concerned, if they are not paying attention to who they are hiring for this job,'' Pechie added.

"We're trying to level the playing field,'' he said.

The state began a program to track worksite wages and workers' comp violations in 2008, he said.

Contractors that do not pay minimum wage and do not provide workers' comp insurance can unfairly underbid a job, he said.

"They can undercut legitimate business in the state,'' he said.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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