Contractors violated state laws during Ala Moana Center expansion

Local News

Companies broke the law while working on one of the largest construction projects in the islands.

That’s what the state found at Ala Moana Center’s Ewa Wing, making the announcement on the day of its grand opening.

A multi-agency investigation revealed some contractors hired to build one of the state’s largest projects did not offer workers basic types of protection.

“I’m kind of disappointed in fact, that so many companies may not have been looking out for their workers,” said Linda Chu Takayama, director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR).

So far, Chu Takayama says, investigators have found seven violations, involving temporary disability (TDI), health care or both.

The fine for violating the TDI law is a dollar per employee per day.

The labor department still needs to talk to 28 contractors that may have also violated unemployment insurance laws.

“Twenty-eight possible violations. Is that a big number?” KHON2 asked.

“I thought so, but we’ll see what it comes out to. Actually, any number of violations would be of some concern,” Chu Takayama said.

State investigators visited Ala Moana Center on Oct. 26 after the Hawaii Construction Alliance filed a complaint.

We showed you video of a worker claiming he was supposed to be paid in cash without benefits.

We also talked to a worker who said he worked on a new store at the shopping center, and was also paid in cash. He said workers were scrambling to complete the job.

We also showed you an internal memo that the Hawaii Construction Alliance obtained. It was sent by Ala Moana Center’s owner, General Growth Properties, to tenant project managers.

The memo warned them state investigators would be visiting the construction site and to prepare.

“These sorts of violations beg the question, when were they aware that these problems were happening? Did they turn a blind eye as they were rushing to open the new wing today?” said Tyler Dos Santos-Tam with the Hawaii Construction Alliance.

“General Growth has always said this is a matter between the state and the tenants. What do you say?” KHON2 asked Chu Takayama.

“I would hope that they would take responsibility for stepping up to the plate and ensuring all contractors and subcontractors who are working on their project are complying with the law,” she said.

KHON2 have also been following the city’s building inspections for the new stores. They opened as scheduled Thursday.

We checked the city’s website throughout the day, and it still shows not all of the inspections are completed. According to the Department of Planning and Permitting, “inspections are ongoing.”

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs is also investigating contractors that worked on the project. That investigation is not done either.

When it is, the contractors can appeal the state’s decisions.

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