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Bill hopes to ensure “fair play” from contractors on Kaua‘i

LIHU‘E — A bill presented to Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday intends to rein in unfair labor practices by requiring permit-holders to disclose information on contractors working on site.

Draft Bill No. 2873 adds a section to the county code requiring contractors to keep their permits up to date with current information on the licensed contractors working on projects, and requires disclosure of any violations and disciplinary actions against permitted contractors.

“We want to ensure that there’s up-to-date information that the licensed contractors working on the project are the contractors that are actually working on the project,”said County Managing Director Mike Dahilig, who presented the bill to the council.

“What we’ve seen is that there are bad actors within our community that want to use labor that does not meet the standards set by state and federal regulations.”

If passed, it would make Kaua‘i the first county in Hawai‘i to have such a rule in place.

The bill garnered supportive testimony from contractors and union groups, including the Hawai‘i Regional Council of Carpenters, Pacific Resource Partnership, and local contractor Shioi Construction Inc.

Union groups cited the 2016 Maile Sky Court incident on O‘ahu, when the U.S. Department of Labor laid down a $767,000 fine on a contractor for labor violations on a Waikiki hotel renovation as an example of the sorts of labor problems they hope to prevent with increased disclosure.

In this incident, the Texas-based contractor R&R Construction Services was fined for numerous infractions including incorrectly misclassifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

Some implied that similar violations might be happening closer to home.

“We have noticed that some contractors from outside the county are utilizing dishonest business practices and hiring undocumented workers, in order to win large projects on Kaua‘i,” the Hawai‘i Regional Council of Carpenters said in their written testimony.

“We must consider the impact these disreputable actors have on the local business community, as well as the loss of good-paying jobs that comes when seedy contractors swoop in with workers from the mainland.”

Dahilig said that the bill was not increasing enforcement of labor violations.

“It’s not meant to make judgment on who’s working,” said Dahilig. “We simply believe that having more sunshine in the permitting process is a step towards straight fair play for our contracting community.”

The council discussion revolved around the language in the bill, and whether it would apply to homeowners doing small construction projects.

Billy DeCosta, who was the only “no” vote on the project, was concerned about the effect that the bill would have on homeowners, and the possibility that it could increase bureaucracy.

“I think that language is important,” said DeCosta. “We don’t want to make building harder for our homeowners.”

Dahilig acknowledged DeCosta’s concerns regarding homeowners and expressed hope that a final version of the bill could target larger projects without affecting small-scale homeowner renovations, which other council members also voiced support for.

A motion to defer by DeCosta was not seconded, and the bill passed first reading 6-1, with DeCosta in dissent. It will go to public hearing, then committee, then to the floor for a second reading and final vote.


Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or
Source: The Garden Island

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