HAPPIER TIMES: Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis, Deidre Randell from RMS and Page MP Kevin Hogan dig the first soil on for the Glenugie to Tyndale Pacific Highway build.
HAPPIER TIMES: Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis, Deidre Randell from RMS and Page MP Kevin Hogan dig the first soil on for the Glenugie to Tyndale Pacific Highway build. Contributed

'Kept in the dark': Highway subcontractors fight for pay

PACIFIC Highway subcontractors are preparing to ramp up their fight for months of unpaid wages from one of the project's primary contractors, which went into voluntary administration earlier this year.

About 200 highway workers who completed the Glenugie to Tyndale section of the Pacific Highway upgrade have been left without months of pay after Darling-Downs based company Ostwald Bros abandoned the site and announced it was in administration.

About 15 impacted subcontractors and members of advocacy group, Subcontractors Alliance, met via teleconference on Sunday to discuss the upcoming meeting of creditors with administrators Price Waterhouse Coopers in Toowoomba.

Subcontractor Jo Franklin, who is based on the Northern Rivers, is one of those heading up the group of disgruntled subbies fighting for pay. She said perseverance was a major theme of the meeting to boost the morale of her disheartened colleagues as the battle continues.

"The conference served yet again as an information session for subcontractors that have been kept in the dark for the last two months since the collapse," she said.

"If it wasn't for this group many people would have given up."

According to PwC's administrators report, unsecured creditors - such as the Pacific Highway subbies - are owed $26.6 million.

The Northern Star has obtained a PwC breakdown of money owed by Ostwald to 26 businesses subcontracted to the Glenugie to Tyndale upgrade is about $7 million.

In the lead up to Thursday's meeting, PwC has recommended creditors vote that the company be wound up and placed into liquidation in a report dated November 23.

But Ms Franklin said a growing number of subcontractors are concerned about PwC's ability to reimburse their unpaid wages if creditors move in favour of the company liquidating Ostwald Bros.

Ms Franklin and other subbies have asked representatives from two major creditors, ANZ bank and the ATO, to abstain to allow for a majority vote that would decide which company should be appointed to liquidate the company.   The ANZ bank and ATO are among those creditors with the largest debt owed, meaning their vote may have more weight in deciding a liquidator.

Page MP Kevin Hogan was among local MPs and RMS representatives invited to the teleconference on Sunday.

Ms Franklin said Mr Hogan couldn't attend but said offered to send a representative and speak with her yesterday.

Mr Hogan didn't respond to The Northern Star before deadline.

Those who cannot attend Thursday's creditors meeting can attend via teleconference from the Grafton District Services Club at 3.30pm.



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