NEW ORLEANS – BP’s list of unpaid bills is growing. FOX 8 has learned not only does the company owe money to St. Bernard Parish, but two more contractors, as well, Loupe Construction and Consulting and TKO Catering. The parish says between the three, BP is behind at least $62 million.
Meantime, boat captains and supervisors working out of Plaquemines Parish for one of BP’s largest contractors in the oil spill cleanup say they never got paid Friday, and it’s the second time in a month.
DRC spokesperson Paula Pendarvis said the company will pay those workers when BP pays them. A source close to the contractor says DRC is owed $50 million for work already completed in Plaquemines Parish and $35 million in Jefferson Parish.
Several hundred workers involved in oil spill cleanup in Plaquemines alone are now out of a job. “We’re going to have to go file for the unemployment you know.. that’ll be my next step.. file for unemployment,” said Reginald Osborne of Belle Chasse.
Osborne and more than 100 other DRC hourly workers waited outside the company’s Belle Chasse field office for their final paychecks.
“Now they telling me we need to sign this here because they don’t want me to sue them… So I have no check,” said Wanda Lane of Belle Chasse. Buras resident Alex George said, “they holding peoples checks hostage here. I think it is very, very unfair. I have never been in a situation where I had to sign a waiver to get my check.” DRC says the waiver is standard business, acknowledging that workers are not owed any more money.
Osborne said six months ago he was making $25 an hour, but recently, that rate changed, he said dramatically. Some workers say they were told if they agreed to a lower pay rate of $14.23 an hour they could have work for at least the next six months, but last Friday, DRC’s relationship with BP fell apart. DRC said BP terminated its contract.
“Their head people at DRC went to Texas to sign a new contract, which they made us sign a new contract, and then the next day they’re fired. How could you sign a new contract and then the whole contract is cancelled,” asked Osborne.
Pendarvis said, “we’ve made a lot of cost concessions over the length of the contract, and we offered to cut again, but somebody else cut even further.”
Now the fear is the work that’s left is going to out-of-towners. Osborne said, “they’re coming from Alabama. They’re coming from Alaska, Florida, Texas, Georgia.”
“We the ones from here. This is our backyard, not theirs. Why the local people can’t do it,” asked Stanley Hebert of Belle Chasse.
The men and women who’ve been charged with laying boom and vacuuming oil that got into marshland say the cleanup effort is far from over. “They have so much work out there. It’s unbelievable,” said Lane. Rocky Barrois of Venice said, “I found a big spot of oil on the beach we was cleaning up, and I was told by one of the safety inspectors to stop finding new oil that they had to put an end to this…it was getting overwhelming.”
DRC said it’s meeting with BP in Houston Monday to talk about the tens of millions of dollars in back pay.
For two days FOX 8 has tried to reach BP for comment. So far, BP has not returned our calls.