Hope for out-of-pocket subcontractors

Illawarra subcontractors owed an estimated $1.4 million could know within days whether they will be hired by new project managers St Hilliers to finish public housing projects.

The firms, most of which are small operations, were left in the lurch when building firm Perle, operating under a Federal Government stimulus program, collapsed last year.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union organiser Mick Lane said negotiations were underway with St Hilliers and he expected the union would be able to provide a clearer picture to subcontractors by the end of the week.

Until then the subcontractors, many of whom are individually owed hundreds of thousands of dollars for work done on NSW Housing projects in Towradgi and Tarrawanna, would be "in a little bit of limbo", he said.

"I think they're all quite positive about it ... at least they know St Hilliers, and they know them to be a company of some substance," he said.

The firm, which has offices around the country, was responsible for Wollongong's Ibis Hotel, which has since been sold to the University of Wollongong for student accommodation.

A tender announced by Finance Minister Greg Pearce on Sunday does not contain any requirements for St Hilliers to give favourable treatment to affected subcontractors.

However, a list had been passed on for consideration, a spokesman for Mr Pearce told the Mercury.

St Hilliers did not return a call requesting comment yesterday.

Keira MP Ryan Park repeated a call for local firms to be given "first priority" to complete work at the unfinished sites.

"At the very least I would have thought that the local subcontractors who were left out of pocket would have had to be given first priority to finish the work so at least some of the money can be recovered through ongoing secure work, but at this stage that does not appear to be the case," Mr Park said yesterday.

He said he would raise the matter with Mr Pearce in Parliament this week and would also write to St Hilliers.

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