Paychecks not likely for hundreds of oil spill cleanup workers Friday (VIDEO)


Friday will apparently be a payless payday for hundreds of people involved in the BP cleanup effort. BP has terminated one of its biggest contractors, which claims it is owed tens of millions of dollars, at a time when people in coastal communities continue to suffer from the spill.

What’s not clear is why BP’s relationship with one of its biggest contractors soured, but DRC apparently will cut checks to only certain workers.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said, “they will be paying some of the techs, the deckhands, the hourly people tomorrow.” It’s his understanding that BP cut its ties to DRC last Friday, and the contractor won’t pay the boat owners, captains and suppliers, until it receives a payment from BP.

A source close to the company claims its owed $50 million for work done in Plaquemines Parish and $35 million for work completed in Jefferson Parish.

“All of us are like a family, and we’re concerned if they’re not paying them (oil response workers).. you know if they did the job, they should pay them. So we don’t understand what’s going on right now,” said Grace Palmisano. Palmisano and her husband, Dwayne, applied to use their shrimp boats as part of the oil spill response, but say they were never hired.

“This business (Lady Grace Seafood) kind of kept me and my husband alive,” said Palmisano. Their brand-new market that sold fresh and boiled seafood at the time of the disaster was forced to shift gears and open a kitchen to survive. Nearly seven months after the spill, the effects haven’t gone away.

Palmisano said, “people are scared. People are still scared. We do have our regulars. They know us. They trust us and know anything we bring in is going to be quality, but people they’re really scared with oysters I think is our biggest downfall.”

Fellow fishermen meantime caught in the middle of a BP contractor dispute wait for a payday. Nungesser said, “we’re gonna stay on top of this. We’re not gonna let our local fishermen not get paid and our local people.”

500 people and vessels were deployed in Plaquemines alone, laying boom or vacuuming oil that got into marshland. Nungesser is hoping a meeting next Monday between the two companies will clear up the problem.

DRC spokesman Richard Angelico tells FOX 8, BP wanted the company to reduce the cost of projects, but a source close to the contractor tells us BP is trying to make that retroactive for work already done.

Angelico said, “We were called to Houston and asked to cut our rates for work being performed. We cut those rates substantially, but another contractor cut theirs by a few percentage points more. At that point BP terminated our contract and accepted the lower proposal of a competitor.”

Angelico said vessel owners have not been paid for the last two weeks, and probably won’t get a paycheck Friday since the company is owed a “substantial amount of money.”

Nungesser said he’s been assured by BP that other contractors will hire local people, but not as many as the cleanup effort slows. BP has not responded to a FOX 8 request for comment.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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