New York Daily News

Labor Pains Hit N.J. Firm Hard

Cited for poor work, safety


Daily News Staff Writer


The company targeted by yesterday's massive demonstration is a growing force in the construction industry that recently has come under fire for allegedly doing shoddy work and violating safety regulations.

Known for relying on nonunion labor, Roy Kay Inc. is under investigation by the state Labor Department for allegedly failing to set up an apprenticeship program required under state law.

But that is just one in a laundry list of controversies dogging the 27-year-old Freehold, N.J., company, which still has been able to win big-money state and city jobs.

Two months ago, a Roy Kay backhoe being hauled by one of its workers struck an elevated subway station and tore its bed to shreds.

In recent years, Roy Kay was blamed for an NYPD police lab flood caused by a faulty boiler installed by the company, according to a report prepared by City Councilman Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn) last year titled "Anatomy of a Bad Contractor."

Roy Kay was also the general contractor on a Rutgers University job where a gas line ruptured, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of students, Weiner's report says.

The company has racked up $30,000 in fines for 35 Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations since 1981, and scored 17 unsatisfactory project evaluations.

But an OSHA spokesman said the $30,000 in fines Roy Kay paid the agency over 16 years is not a lot.

"In terms of violators of OSHA standards, these guys are small change," said the spokesman.

In April, the company won a $32.6 million megacontract to build the West Side Transit Authority communications center at the heart of yesterday's protest.

Virgil Conway, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the TA's parent agency, said an MTA investigation of the bid showed "they were responsible and indeed they performed numerous contracts for state agencies."

Conway said he is aware of the Labor Department investigation, and "the charges are serious."

A state Labor Department spokesman said it is investigating whether the company had in-house apprenticeship programs in place, as required to win many government jobs.

Union leaders who organized yesterday's protest said the firm represents a growing government trend of hiring nonunion companies.

"We don't want anyone to think this is an isolated project  there are a whole host of contractors like Roy Kay," said Building & Construction Trades Council spokesman Paul Fernandes.

State law, according to Conway, mandates that the MTA accept the low bid on a project whether it involves union or nonunion workers.

Roy Kay would not take press calls yesterday.

The company routinely has received satisfactory marks when projects were completed for the city. In one case, the company earned an excellent rating under a grading system.

But Weiner yesterday said he had his doubts about some of those ratings.

"It seems like it's a case where people look the other way because they're the low bidder," he said.

With Michael Daly and Kevin McCoy

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