Megan Merrigan photo
UConn Basketball Champions Center (Megan Merrigan photo)

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters hosted a rally Thursday in Storrs after hearing word that Intext Building Systems was coming back to work on the University of Connecticut’s basketball practice facility after being banned in February.

“I’m concerned,” Regional Council Representative Tim Sullivan, who helped organize the rally, said. “As a taxpayer and as a union rep, I’m very concerned.”

But, the carpenters can put their picket signs down for now. Intext will not be returning to complete the project even though the stop-work order that was placed on the $32 million UConn Basketball Champions Center in February has been lifted by the state Department of Labor.

The stop-work order was placed after a surprise visit from the labor department revealed that both Intext of Glastonbury and J&V Construction, the subcontractor Intext brought in to help with the project, were using undocumented workers and paying them in cash to avoid paying state taxes, insurance costs, and workers compensation.

The labor department’s investigation also found that the men working on the project were being paid $20 an hour. According to Gary Pechie, the labor department’s director of the Division of Wage and Workplace Standards, this is about $30 less than the state requires for these types of projects.

The stop-work order was lifted about a week ago by the labor department, but Enfield Builders, the contractors responsible for bringing in Intext, made the decision Thursday to keep them off the project.

Megan Merrigan photo
New England Regional Council of Carpenters (Megan Merrigan photo)

Asked why Enfield Builders decided against bringing Intext back to UConn, the company’s attorney, Fred Hedberg, said there was no particular reason.

Instead, Enfield Builders have opted to replace Intext with union workers from East Hartford’s Acoustics Inc.

Acoustics Inc. was brought in to work on the project when Intext was banned in February, and the union workers are happy to be staying to complete the work and “get a piece of the pie,” Dan Litke, a member of Connecticut Carpenters Local #24, said.

“We live in this community. We want to work in this community. We pay taxes in this community. It works,” Litke said.

While Intext has been cleared and is legally able to continue work on the facility, J&V is still not in compliance with labor department standards and has an outstanding wage bill of nearly $368,000 for underpaying its employees, according to Pechie, who described J&V’s violations as more severe than Intext’s.

“It’s usually the third and fourth tier subcontractors where we find problems,” Pechie said, referring to J&V.

UConn Spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said via email that the university respects both the issuing and lifting of the stop-work order by the labor department, and that “UConn is committed to the highest quality in all of its construction projects and compliance with all other safety laws.”

Reitz also noted that the job site was never shut down and, while work has been slightly delayed, the facility is still scheduled to open on time.