Subcontractors protest lack of pay for AIT construction

Staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Apr 09, 2013 - Page 3

Representatives of Taiwanese companies subcontracted to build a new office complex for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) yesterday staged a protest at the construction site in Taipei, demanding payment owed to them by the project’s US contractor.

The protesters said the primary contractor, US-based Weston Solutions, owes more than NT$470 million (US$15.69 million) to three Taiwanese firms for work already done on the project in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖).

The protesters demanded payment from Weston Solutions and also called on the AIT to help with the problem.

Wei Chuan Arch Contracting Co representative Tu Chung-jen (涂崇仁) said Weston Solutions started to delay or hold back payments more than a year ago and the situation has deteriorated over time. Tu said his company and the other two suspended work at the construction site on March 20 because of the payment problems.

They also learned from a US news report last month that Weston Solutions was in serious financial trouble and had laid off more than 100 employees, he said.

When the subcontractors asked Weston’s staff in Taipei about the report, they said the company could not afford to pay the money owed, Tu said.

The Taiwanese companies said they would no longer talk to Weston.

“We hope the AIT will step in to assist with the payment issue,” Tu said, adding that the three firms must be paid before they will resume work.

“A partial payment to start with will do,” he said.

AIT staff talked with the protesters and promised to convey their requests and see what can be done, Tu said.

“We’ve taken the time to listen to their concerns today and we’ll assess what we heard,” AIT spokesman Mark Zimmer said.

However, the legal issues are between Weston Solutions and its subcontractors, and it was up to the two parties to resolve the dispute themselves, he said.

Asked whether the payment dispute would delay the scheduled completion of the compound in 2015, Zimmer said he did not “anticipate any effect on the schedule.”

Meanwhile, the subcontractors plan to stage a week-long protest at the construction site next week and will move their demonstration to the AIT’s current location if it does not take action to help them, Tu said.

The AIT compound is being built on a 6.5 hectare hillside site within walking distance of the Neihu MRT station.

The site was leased from government for 99 years. The compound will include an office building of about 14,000m2, a parking area and ancillary structures.

The new site will house all of the AIT’s Taipei offices — the American Cultural Center, the Commercial Section, the Chinese Language and Area Studies School and the Agricultural Trade Office — for the first time.