Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey said the government only became aware of Ostwald Bros financial struggles last month.
Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey said the government only became aware of Ostwald Bros financial struggles last month. Contributed

'It's a lie': Unpaid highway workers hit back at minister

SACKED subbies from the Pacific Hwy upgrade have called out the State Government's claim that the financial woes of contractor, Ostwald Bros, was only brought to their attention last month.

A transcript of the NSW Budget Estimates hearing yesterday afternoon revealed Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey said the government became aware of Ostwald's monetary struggles on August 7.

Roads and Maritime Services chief executive Ken Kanofski said was alerted to the issues in a similar time period leading up to Oswald, which is now in voluntary administration, deserting their operations at the Glenugie to Tyndale section on August 25.

But four contractors approached by The Northern Star argued they made everyone, from the RMS, its highway upgrade delivery partner Pacific Complete and tenderer Seymour Whyte to Ostwald Bros, aware of their payment plight.

All four are each owed more than $90,000 in unpaid wages by the ailing Darling Downs based company, which they claim hasn't paid wages since May.

One subbie said it was "a load of s**t" that the RMS denied that they knew nothing about the issue until last month.

"It would be a lie for the RMS to say they didn't know before then (August 7)," they said.

"I am the one suffering at the end of this."

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Shadow Minister for Primary Industries Mick Veitch questioned Mr Kanofski in State Parliament, asking if the head contractor, Seymour Whyte, had proven financial due diligence before Ostwald was awarded the tender for certain works.

"All the appropriate reports were sought and were in order at that time, so the contract was awarded," Mr Kanofski said.

Mr Kanofski denied he had any knowledge of Ostwald's financial troubles prior to it being awarded the contract, when questioned by Mr Veitch.

"No, the normal due diligence was undertaken in the reports. Generally, we get independent financial assessments as part of the process," Mr Kanofski said.

" ... we started getting some phone calls from subcontractors. That was when we became aware that the company had financial difficulties."

Ms Pavey said the government, together with the RMS, had worked to support the subbies as Ostwald and its creditors began to navigate the administration process.

"... As soon as we were made aware with the first phone call on 7 August-and then a few more phone calls came through in the week commencing 12 August-we have been part of a process to limit the impact on those subcontractors," she said.

"It is not fair, it is not right, and it is un-Australian-all of those things."



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