Construction giant put on payment `blacklist'

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The Independent Online
Hundreds of building firms are being urged to boycott one of the country's biggest construction companies, Alfred McAlpine, following allegations that it has badly treated sub-contractors.

The Confederation of Construction Specialists, which represents 400 firms, has asked its members not to work for the company unless they receive "clear written assurances" as to when and how they will be paid. Those contracted with Alfred McAlpine are advised to "take all prudent steps to safeguard their entitlements to payment".

John Huxtable, head of the confederation, said the boycott follows complaints by sub-contractors working on the Center Parcs holiday village at Longleat in Wiltshire. He accused Alfred McAlpine of using their "considerable power...to mess around with sub-contractors as they like". The confederation has registered the advice with the Office of Fair Trading.

This is potentially awkward for the Government. Alfred McAlpine has been one of the Tory Party's biggest financial supporters, and Graeme Odgers, the company's chief executive until April 1993, is now chairman of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, which deals with referrals on unfair competition from the OFT.

Dr John Marek, Labour MP for Wrexham, accuses the company of refusing to pay two sub-contractors in his constituency - and another, unnamed, builder for work on the Maelor Hospital.

Dr Marek alleges that Kenneth Newall and another builder - understood to be RM Gregory - were not paid "despite having compelling evidence that the work has been completed".

In January 1991, Mr Newall was hired by Alfred McAlpine to work on the £21.3m hospital project for the Welsh Office.

Mr Newall says he is owed over £100,000 and has had to declare himself bankrupt.

A spokesman for Alfred McAlpine said the boycott call was unfounded. It had "behaved entirely properly" at Center Parcs and did not use commercial muscle to avoid payment. The company was in dispute with RM Gregory, while Mr Newall had received some money in advance and the rest had gone to his trustees in bankruptcy.

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