Bills pile up in wake of contractor change

Payments being sorted as Muskrat Falls work continues

Ashley Fitzpatrick
Published on February 12, 2014

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1620 has filed a civil case with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland on behalf of 67 workers owed money for work on the Muskrat Falls project.

The union is attempting to retrieve $248,000 still unpaid to workers who were helping Great Western Forestry complete a right-of-way clearing for the transmission line to be built between Churchill Falls and Muskrat Falls.

The forestry company was fired from its task on the province’s

$7.7-billion power project in November, by proponent Nalcor Energy. The contract passed to Johnson’s Construction Ltd.

That change left Great Western Forestry, its subcontractors and individual workers with bills outstanding and now being settled through legal action.

In early December, The Telegram reported the stories of two workers affected by the sudden change in contractors.

The leadership of the IBEW local has declined further comment on behalf of the tradespeople it represents while the matter is before the courts.

Subcontractors affected

Beginning Aug. 21 and Oct. 18, 2013, Leo J. Beazley (1996) Ltd. trucked heavy equipment from New Brunswick and Quebec to the Muskrat Falls worksite. As of Nov. 17, roughly $87,000 in invoices issued by that company to Great Western Forestry had yet to be paid.

Three months later, those bills are outstanding.

Mark Beazley said his family’s business has worked with the forestry company in the past and did not have any problems. He said the trouble at Muskrat Falls was not expected and has pinched his company, based in Eastern Passage, N.S.

“We’re a very small business, from a small town just outside of Dartmouth in Nova Scotia and never had to deal with adversity like this,” he said, before saying he would limit his comments to that, given his case has also yet to be settled.

Allnorth Consultants Ltd., part of the engineering and technical consulting firm with roots in British Columbia, was also left without full payment for its business at Muskrat Falls.

The consultants were hired by the company in early September 2013 for surveying and flagging off the right of way for the power line for Great Western Forestry. Allnorth’s work was put on hold in November.

According to court documents, Allnorth claims it is owed roughly $130,000, with the addition of 1.5 per cent interest per month. A mechanics lien has been issued.

Backed by bond

In the legal cases emerging as fallout from the change in contractors, Nalcor Energy is typically named alongside Great Western Forestry.

In addition, in some of the cases being sorted, Western Surety is named with both Nalcor Energy and Great Western Forestry. That is because Western Surety issued the bond Great Western Forestry was required to obtain, in order to participate in the megaproject.

The Telegram reached out to Kevin Dudka, the director of operations for Canadian Northern Timber companies including Great Western Forestry for this story, but received no response as of deadline.

Dudka has previously declined comment on his company’s time on the Muskrat Falls contract.

To date, other than pointing to non-descript failures to meet contractual obligations, there has been no public explanation by Nalcor representatives or the provincial government for the change in contractors, or any suggestion as to how much that change might ultimately cost the project.