Contractor's Warrens lockout opens door to cheque
About 9:05 a.m. today, a smiling Al Barrack removed the chains that barred entry to the Warrens Office Complex, pumping his fists in the air as a sign of victory, after he got the news he would, at least, be paid some of the monies owed to him by the Government.
He was not the only one relieved, however. A loud cheer erupted from workers from various Government departments, who had turned up for work but could not get to their stations because of the lockout.
Almost three hours earlier, after declaring that he had had enough, the contractor had placed two padlocks and chains on the doors of the Warrens Office Complex, prohibiting entry to the scores of civil servants about 6:20 a.m. Police arrived to keep an eye on the situation around 7 a.m., and just over an hour later, Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman arrived.
Barrack said he had taken the drastic step because he was frustrated at receiving nothing but promises of payment. Since 2006, the contractor was awarded $34 million by the law courts after suing Government for his part in completing the Warrens Office Complex. In November 2008, he received a $2.5 million payment from the administration of late Prime Minister David Thompson. Two years later, the contractor turned down a proposal from Government to pay him $45 million.
But in a deal, understood to be brokered by Kellman and Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler today, the contractor was promised that some of the money he was owed would be transferred to his bank account by the close of business.
“I don’t want to be hostile. Why should I be? You have to trust people,” Barrack told reporters in a tone much more reconciliatory than earlier in the morning, when he was insisting he would not remove the chains “until they bring the cheque”.
His action took the Minister of Housing by surprise and he made that known to Barrack, who reiterated his frustration. Kellman later told reporters on the scene that the matter was being dealt with.
“As you would appreciate this is a time of a crisis, and we have been keeping our word and we said that we will settle the matter, and we will settle the matter. You also have to appreciate that we also have legal rights, which we will not use,” Kellman noted.
As the minister spoke, Barrack sat in his vehicle writing down his bank account details which he later passed on to the Kelman. The contractor, when pressed as to what would happen if today passed and there was no money forthcoming, said: “We would deal with tomorrow if today passes. You gotta trust people.”