TWENTY subcontractors and five suppliers, who are owed an approximate combined total of €250,000 for work already carried out on a council-owned housing development in Miltown Malbay, are planning to place a continual picket on the €4,099,752 estate from Friday. They first picketed the site last Friday.
Clare County Council had a public works contract with Multeen Developments Ltd for the construction of the 34 houses in the development. Although the work is almost complete, Clare County Council was notified on July 30 that a firm had been appointed to Multeen Developments Ltd as provisional liquidator by the courts.
As a result of subcontractors remaining unpaid for their work, Quilty Construction, who are owed in the region of €60,000, have laid off six employees, while site electrician Stephen Pyne, who is owed a similar figure, has closed his business and emigrated to Australia. Another subcontractor, John Talty, is owed approximately €20,000.
John O’Dwyer, who is one of the suppliers affected, said Clare County Council should use retention money, which the subcontractors estimate comes to €320,000, to pay them what they are owed.
Retention money, Mr O’Dwyer explained, is completely separate from an insurance bond with Quinn Direct, who have nominated Guerin and Considine contractors in Liscannor to complete the housing scheme.
“The bond does not and cannot cover sums owing to sub-contractors from the original contract,” Clare County Council said in a statement.
However, Mr O’Dwyer insisted the retention money could be utilised by the council to pay the subcontractors and suppliers.
With respect to retention money, generally 5% of an overall contract figure is kept for 12 months after the contract is finished. This is to ensure that any potential problems are repaired by the contractor.
“The contractor would have to come back and fix that work within a 12-month period or else he wouldn’t get his retention money. Also, 3% retention is left as a final payment for when the builder hands over the keys,” Mr O’Dwyer said.
Again, Clare County Council said they are not obliged to use retention money to pay the debts that have accrued.
“Retention does not and cannot cover sums owing to subcontractors, with whom the council had no contractual relationship,” the council statement claimed.
“This is a moral issue. We feel that the council has the money. Here they are looking as if they are going to make €320,000 profit out of this misfortune of subcontractors not getting paid for the work they have done. We’ve calculated the combined figure owed to be approximately €250,000. They could pay everyone and still make a handy profit. The bond is there to finish the project. Quinn Insurance will be paying Guerin and Considine to finish the project. The retention money is left to the council,” Mr O’Dwyer claimed.
He acknowledged that meetings have taken place between the council and the subcontractors but said another is needed.
“We’ve had two meetings with them. The last meeting was about five weeks ago. Two council representatives met three representatives from the group. They still won’t tell us what the exact amount of retention money is and they won’t tell us what they’re going to do with it. We’ve been trying to get the council to have a meeting with us. Up to now they haven’t given us a time or a date,” John O’Dwyer explained.
“If we haven’t got notification of a meeting either this Thursday or definitely Friday, there’ll be a picket put on the gate and it’ll have to remain on then. If they haven’t decided to meet us by this (Wednesday) evening, we’re going to have a meeting and I’d say there’ll be a picket on the gate Friday for definite,” he stated.
“The recourse for all creditors of Multeen is via the court-appointed liquidator,” Clare County Council suggested.
“Clare County Council is acutely aware of the loss and hardship the liquidation has caused to subcontractors who had been engaged by the contractor, Multeen. Clare County Council’s contractual relationship was with Multeen only. The council would regret that further loss would result for Guerin and Considine in the event of continuing disruption to their contracted work programme. The council is conscious of the 34 families waiting to be allocated permanent housing,” the local authority’s statement concluded.