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AG: Contractor Charged in Largest Prevailing-Wage Theft in U.S. History

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Thousands of workers for one of Pennsylvania’s largest road and bridge contractors have been bilked out of $20.7 million worth of retirement and other benefits in the largest prevailing-wage theft case in U.S. history, according to the state’s attorney general.

Some of the money instead went toward retirement accounts for corporate executives and toward undercutting other contractors on competitive bidding for PennDOT projects, said Attorney General Joseph Shapiro during a press conference April 8.

Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. of State College faces four felony counts of “theft by failure to make required distribution of fund received.” The family-owned company has been in business since 1952 and won $1.7 billion worth of PennDOT road and bridge projects between 2003 and 2018, Shapiro said. It has about 1,200 employees, with about 100 in its corporate headquarters in State College, according to court documents. 

“For decades, they led everyone to believe they were playing by the rules,” Shapiro said. “… But it was all lies. In reality, they were engaged in a mass, unprecedented fraud.”

Shapiro said the company, like all other employers, is required to pay prevailing wages by state law and the federal Davis-Bacon Act on government projects. The laws require all of the workers’ wages, which are set by the government, to go to the workers. Some of that wage can go toward the workers’ retirement, health and other benefits, but all of it must go to the worker in some way.

But instead of putting all of the money that was supposed to go to workers’ retirement accounts, Hawbaker funneled it into pension funds for all employees, including company executives, Shapiro said.

The workers “doing the back-breaking work on Pennsylvania’s roadways had their retirements stolen from them in order to go into the pockets of C-suite executives,” he said.

The company would also overstate workers’ medical costs, claiming it had paid an entire hospital bill, for instance, when insurance had paid for most of it, according to Shapiro.

Hawbaker “used phony billing to inflate costs of health care benefits to further steal from workers and help their corporate execs.”

The AG’s investigative team determined in one example in 2018, the company claimed health care costs of $18.65 an hour, when the actual cost was $6.67 an hour. This allowed it to underbid other contractors on contracts by setting their own costs, he said.

“They weren’t stupid about it,” Shapiro said. “This was a sophisticated operation that spanned many years.”

However, the statute of limitations on the crimes only goes back to 2015. The four theft charges cover the period between September 1, 2015, and December 31, 2018, according to the criminal complaint. During that time, the company “stole just under $20.7 million of prevailing wage workers’ fringe benefit money,” according to an affidavit of probable cause from Thomas J. Moore II, an investigator in the AG’s office.

The affidavit provided this chart breakdown of how the scheme affected workers’ pensions and health and wellness benefits:

Screen Shot 2021 04 09 At 4 16 22 Pm

Harry Ward, a bridge worker at Hawbaker for 30 years, discovered a problem with his retirement plan in 2018. The funds he had expected to receive from Hawbaker didn’t match his account. He checked with PennDOT and confirmed he was short thousands of dollars.

“You’re the hero in this story, and we’re grateful to you,” Shapiro told Ward, who was in the audience at the press conference. “We’re going to get you your money back.”

Toward that effort, the attorney general has set up a hotline number for Hawbaker workers and retirees at 814-746-3518. Shapiro said the AG’s office knows who the victims are and will also be reaching out to them.

Shapiro also said Hawbaker has cooperated with the investigation. The company told investigators it relied on bad advice from a former counsel, and it has changed its methods since the investigation began, according to the affidavit, and money is now being directed properly.  

Hawbaker released the following statement in response to the charges:

“Glenn O. Hawbaker is a third-generation, family-owned company that has been in business for nearly 70 years. Upon learning of the Attorney General’s investigation in 2018, we have cooperated fully. While we believe that we have always acted in accordance with all state and federal laws, in an abundance of caution, the company immediately changed its prevailing wage practices. These changes remain in effect today as we continue to do what’s right for our employees, both past and present. Our company will continue to work constructively with the Attorney General’s office to reach a swift resolution. Since 1952, Glenn O. Hawbaker’s mission has been to build, serve and advance local communities, and that will never change.”

Shapiro said this is the third case of prevailing-wage theft in the state in the past three months. “I want to tell you that you are now on notice,” Shapiro said, directing his message to employers. “If you steal from your employees, if you misclassify workers, if you violate our labor laws, we are going to find you, and we are going to hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

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Harvey decorates new Astrazeneca lab

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Henley-in-Arden-based Harvey UK worked in the development laboratories, restaurant and staff facilities at the new centre on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, on behalf of contractors Overbury.

The new centre shares the Cambridge campus with Cambridge University’s School of Clinical Medicine, Addenbrooke’s Centre for Clinical Investigation, Cancer UK’s research facility, and the Heart and Lung Research Institute as well as several other medical research centres.

Harvey UK managing director Tony Harvey said: “We have considerable experience in the medical and clinical sectors, and it’s a privilege to be involved in preparing a facility which will carry out such important work.”

Harvey UK has also carried out work at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.

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‘Fur and foie gras bans must follow animal sentience legislation’

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Some events can really renew your optimism as an animal rights advocate. Hearing the commitment to bring forward new legislation to “ensure the United Kingdom has, and promotes, the highest standards of animal welfare”, in the Queen’s speech during the state opening of parliament this week, was one of them.

The significance of the government’s recognition that, as our understanding of other animals has evolved, our laws must evolve, too, can’t be overstated. The simple and glaringly obvious acknowledgment that animals are like us – with families, intelligence, emotions, and their own cultures and languages – means we must provide them with greater legal protection from human exploitation, abuse, and neglect. And delivering on its commitment to recognise animal sentience in law and put it “at the heart of policy making”, as the government has pledged to do, is a vital step in our society’s moral evolution.

In addition to the introduction of the much-anticipated animal welfare (sentience) bill, animal protection groups are expecting to see several other important bills brought forward during this new parliamentary session as part of the government’s “ambitious and wide-ranging plan for driving forward reforms in the … Action Plan for Animal Welfare”, including, we hope, a ban on fur imports.

Fur farming has been illegal in the UK for almost 20 years, but bizarrely we have continued to import around £55 million worth of fur, including from countries where animals still spend their miserable lives frantically circling in cramped, filthy cages, being driven mad by the confinement. For the fur trim adorning Canada Goose’s parkas, sold in its Regent’s Street shop and by a small handful of other unscrupulous retailers, including Harvey Nichols, coyotes are caught in steel traps that would be illegal here and can suffer for days while enduring blood loss, shock, dehydration, frostbite, and gangrene.

The bears still being gunned down to make the Queen’s Guard’s caps are often mothers whose cubs are left to starve or die from predation without her to protect them – utterly indefensible when their namesake, the Queen herself, refuses to purchase fur. Surviving bear cubs are known to wail when hunters shoot their mothers in front of them and will moan and cry for weeks afterward in apparent grief. And of course, bears are not alone in mourning the loss of loved ones, just as we do.

Professor of anthropology Barbara J. King shares many other devastating accounts in her book How Animals Grieve. Only the animals born with it need fur, especially when we have so many humane, eco-friendly options that no one has to die for. A bill banning fur imports is absolutely necessary if the government is to fulfil its promise that “our high animal welfare standards are not compromised in our trade negotiations”, and with 95% of Brits opposed to wearing real fur, it would also be an extremely popular piece of legislation.

Our new status as an independent nation outside the EU also provides the UK with the opportunity to close its borders to foie gras and earn our status as “a global leader for international advocacy on animal welfare”, something the government is said to be considering as part of its animals abroad bill.

There is no doubt that, of all the many cruel practices involving animals on today’s factory farms, foie gras (“fatty liver”) production is one of the cruellest. In order to get the liver to expand to up to 10 times its natural size, ducks and geese are force-fed using a procedure known as gavage, in which a long pipe is forced down their throat and a large quantity of food is pumped into their stomach three to four times a day for several weeks until their liver becomes so large that it presses on their lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

The inhumane product is illegal to produce in 17 countries, including the UK, with 79% of the British public in favour of an import ban as well, which makes perfect sense given that a product too cruel to produce here should logically also be too cruel to sell.

Eighty per cent of the British public want post-Brexit government trade deals to have clear requirements that imported animal products meet or exceed British animal welfare production standards. It boils down to this: there is simply no justification for fur, foie gras, hunting trophies, or any other products of gross animal abuse to be allowed into Britain nor for shipping British animals on hellish journeys to be fattened and slaughtered abroad.

In 1822, the UK became the first country in the world to introduce animal protection legislation, and as the bicentennial of that landmark law approaches, the Queen’s speech served to honour that legacy and define the type of country that we want to be in the future. While you can be sure that PETA and other animal protection groups will hold the government to its commitments to animals, new statutes on the books to help break down the false barrier between humans and other animals are not really necessary: we can already refuse to support industries that treat them as mere objects instead of the sensitive, complex, intelligent individuals they are – just by leaving their body parts off our plates and out of our wardrobes.

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Taziker lands HS2 jetty deal

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Taziker will be supplying, fabricating and installing the steel deck component of a temporary jetty structure which has been designed to provide access for the building of foundations for the new viaduct where it crosses a series of lakes.

The temporary jetty will consist of four separate structures with an approximate total length of 990m. The works will also include safety barriers, pedestrian walkways and guardrails.

Thirteen additional working platforms will also be built to enable the construction of the cofferdams within the lakes, which in turn facilitate the construction of the permanent piers for the viaduct.

Working on behalf of VolkerStevin for the Align Joint Venture, Taziker was awarded the contract following a competitive Invitation to Tender process.

Align JV comprises Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick and is the main works civils contractor responsible for the delivery of the C1 section on HS2.

The C1 package of works consists of a 21.6km stretch of high-speed rail infrastructure including the 3.37km Colne Valley Viaduct; the 16.04km twin-bored Chilterns tunnel; and five ventilation shafts handling both intervention and tunnel ventilation facilities.

Jarrod Hulme, Managing Director of Engineering Solutions, Taziker said: “The construction of the viaduct in Colne Valley is a spectacular and essential part of the HS2 project.

“By supplying, fabricating and installing a major component of the temporary jetty, Taziker have the opportunity to show the quality and innovation we can deliver on major projects for major clients within our engineering division.”

Jason Worrall, Managing Director of Engineering Services, Taziker said, “Taziker has been working in the rail industry for many years now, and so we can appreciate the value that HS2 will bring to the country.

“By improving rail capacity, HS2 will enable better services to operate on local and regional networks, as well as improving freight services. I’m personally incredibly proud that our engineering abilities have been recognised for the Colne Valley Viaduct project.”

Engineers from HS2 Ltd’s main works contractor Align JV began work on the foundations earlier this year and Taziker is expected to begin work on site in June 2021.

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