October 5, 2011 in Idaho

Contractor pays workers back wages

Superfund cleanup subject to federal prevailing wage rules
By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Silver Valley contractor has paid back wages to some of his employees after an investigation revealed that he wasn’t complying with prevailing wage laws.

Stewart Contracting paid less than the $24.66 per hour federal prevailing wage for general laborers on Superfund cleanup jobs, according to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

The error apparently arose from confusion over the correct wage for that job category, said Curt Fransen, DEQ’s deputy director.

Greg Stewart, the company’s CEO, issued a statement saying that Stewart Contracting had corrected the wage rate and issued back pay to affected employees. Fransen confirmed that the pay issue had been rectified. The wrong wage for general laborers was paid in 2010 and part of this year.

The Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 requires contractors to pay the local “prevailing wages” and benefits on federal public works projects. The Depression-era law encourages contractors to hire workers from the local area, said Richard Longo, the U.S. Department of Labor’s regional director of enforcement in San Francisco.

Prevailing wages vary by job description and geographic region. The prevailing wage of $24.66 per hour for general laborers in Shoshone County is based on a survey of 82 private laborers in heavy construction in Idaho’s 10 northern counties. Sixty-five of the workers were covered by collective bargaining agreements, which likely pushed the wages higher for that category, Longo said.

Labor Department officials declined to comment directly on the case, saying the investigation isn’t formally closed.

Idaho DEQ hired Stewart Contracting for yard remediation work in the Silver Valley. The program replaces yards contaminated with heavy metals from past mining activity with clean dirt.

Idaho DEQ administers the program but most of the money for the work comes from federal appropriations, which requires the contractors to abide by prevailing wage laws, Fransen said.


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