School builder to file holiday pay claim

An unexpected holiday on Friday to celebrate the commencement of Cayman’s new Constitution could create some additional costs to government on the construction of two new high schools.

school builder file

Mr. Anglin

Caribbean Mechanical (High Schools) Ltd. Chief Executive Alan Roffey said last week that his company intends to file a claim for the lost day of work on the schools project.

Under the construction contract arrangement, Mr. Roffey’s company – a subcontractor on the project – would have to file any and all additional claims with the project’s main contractor, Tom Jones International. The Tom Jones company is responsible for bringing all additional claims to government.

According to Education Minister Rolston Anglin, whose ministry has overall responsibility for the schools project, there were some 87 contractor claims outstanding as of last month.

The claim to recoup costs for the 6 November holiday would be a new one.

‘If there are changes to the governing law that affect the cost of the works then the contractor is entitled to claim for compensation,’ Mr. Roffey wrote in an e-mail response to Caymanian Compass questions. ‘The extraordinary public holiday is a new law that affects the cost of the work.’

Mr. Roffey said his employees will not work either Friday or next Monday, 9 November, which is also a public holiday.

Either way, Caribbean Mechanical (High Schools) Ltd. would be hit for additional costs, Mr. Roffey said.

‘Every employee associated with either of the high school projects (John Grey in George Town and Clifton Hunter in Frank Sound) will, by law, be paid for a day during which no revenue earning progress for the contractors will be made,’ he wrote. ‘Even if the men do work they will still be entitled to their working hours at their regular rate plus the public holiday pay.’

‘So any work done on that day will cost double.’

Because the holiday was only announced two weeks in advance of the day, Mr. Roffey said the construction companies haven’t been given adequate time to budget for it.

He estimates costs to Caribbean Mechanical alone would be $30,000 for the day on both schools. Tom Jones’ costs would likely be higher. However, Mr. Roffey also pointed out that stopping work for a four day span and restarting would probably carry additional costs.

The Caymanian Compass contacted Tom Jones International officials concerning the claim to recoup pay from the holiday. A company spokesman acknowledged there were still significant outstanding claims on the project, but declined to discuss the specifics of any of them.

A new project manager has been hired by the government and his appointment is expected to be announced this week.

Simply because a claim is filed on a project doesn’t mean that all or any of it must be paid back. Mr. Anglin estimated during a Legislative Assembly hearing last month that some $15 million to $17 million in outstanding claims on the school projects must be resolved and are being negotiated.

The scope and size of the schools’ construction has already been significantly reduced. The Cayman Islands government initially planned to build four student academies at John Gray High School that would house a total of 1,000 students. In addition, three academies were planned at Clifton Hunter and two more academies located at a third proposed high school in West Bay; the Beulah Smith campus.

Because of cost concerns, plans for Beulah Smith HS were put on hold. The John Gray site was also reduced earlier this year to hold only three student academies. The net result is the loss of capacity for some 750 Cayman Islands high schools students, at least in the short to medium term.

Mr. Anglin said ministry officials are crunching the numbers to determine if any additional academies can be added to the two high schools now under construction, but no final determination has been made.