For the first time since Hamilton’s fair wage police was established in 1993, Hamilton politicians have banned one of Ontario’s largest construction firms from bidding on its projects after violating the document.
Bondfield Construction Ltd., a family-owned company based in Concord and Ottawa, will be prevented from bidding on any contracts until 2022.
The violations occurred two years ago when the company was working on the West Mountain Recreation Centre and the Flamborough Library. The city received four complaints in 2012 against the company’s subcontractors, said Rick Male, director of corporate services. One of the complaints was subsequently dropped.
The complaints involved subcontractors violating the city’s fair wage policy, which covers all contractors and subcontractors to pay wages at least equal or greater than the wages as set out in the fair wage schedule. It applies to all contracts over $500,000.
It means a journeyman electrician is paid $35.65/hour; labourer $29.06; bricklayer $33.28 and asphalt spreader $31.70, for instance.
Hamilton is one of eight Ontario municipalities that set out a minimum wage rate.
But the city found that a total of 12 employees were owed a total of $141,045.28 in back wages.
Male said his staff notified Bondfield officials, and attempted to mediate the issue with the company. Eventually, all employees were reimbursed.
He said after the third complaint, the city asked Bondfield to conduct an audit of its administrative documents. Male said a contractor is responsible for its subcontractors to abide by the city’s policies. He said Bondfield did ensure the requirement was written into contracts with its subcontractors.
John Aquino, vice-president of the company, told members of the May 9 Audit, Administration and Finance committee, the accounting company Deloitte was hired. But eventually, he said, the audit became too onerous for the company and it was never completed.
Aquino said not working for Hamilton will have an impact on the company.
“We are resigned to being banned,” he said.
Male said staff had recommended a 10-year penalty on the company be imposed, especially since the company had been reluctant to assist the city.
“I see no willingness (from the company) to tighten” is paper work, said Male.
The committee, though, was reluctant to agree to the 10 years. Instead, councillors approved a six-year penalty, two years for each complaint.
Both councillors Chad Collins, ward 5, and Aidan Johnson, ward 1, opposed the idea.
“Why are we willing (to reduce the penalty) after the company thumbed their noses at the city’s fair wage policy?” he said. “Three strikes and you are out.”
Johnson said reducing the penalty is “watering down” the city’s policy.
“It would set a bad precedent,” he said.
Ward 7 councillor Donna Skelly, who supported reducing the years, said it means she “in no way is not supporting the fair wage policy.”