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Davis urges DOL to resolve Wackenhut back pay claims

June 7th, 2007 12:00 am by Jeff Bobo

KINGSPORT - The U.S. Department of Labor needs to step up its efforts to resolve claims of back pay owed to Holston Army Ammunition Plant's subcontracted Wackenhut Services fire and security employees, U.S. Rep. David Davis, R-Tenn., said Thursday.

Davis, who sits on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, said Thursday he has sent a letter to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao asking her to resolve the Wackenhut employees' claim "expeditiously."

HAAP's 85 Wackenhut employees, who have performed subcontracted fire and security services on the facility since 1999, filed a complaint in July 2005 with the Department of Labor seeking what at the time was alleged to be $3 million in back pay dating back to the beginning of the contract.

The complaint alleges that the Wackenhut employees' pay and benefits were too low and in violation of the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act of 1965 (SCA). The SCA requires federal general contractors and subcontractors performing services on prime contracts in excess of $2,500 to pay service employees no less than the wage rates and fringe benefits found prevailing in the locality.

On Thursday, Davis applauded the Army for stating publicly earlier this week that Wackenhut owes its HAAP employees back pay. The Army has no enforcement authority in this matter, however.

Davis said it's now time for the Department of Labor to put this issue to rest.

"Actually, my staff was working on this issue prior to my coming to Congress under Congressman (Bill) Jenkins, and most of the existing staff are working on this," Davis said. "The Department (of Labor) has been asked by the congressional office for a long time to move this forward expeditiously. This has gone on for two years now, and that's too long in my mind. That's too much government red tape."

Davis admitted that his recent efforts to find an answer from the Department of Labor on this issue have been "frustrating."

Following a series of attempts to speak to someone within the Department of Labor on the matter, Davis' staff was referred to the Wage and Hour Division, who Davis said "weren't answering their phones."

When the Times-News made contact with the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division earlier this week with numerous questions about the Wackenhut issue, a spokesman responded via e-mail by merely quoting the law and then stating no other information could be released about a pending case.

"It is frustrating, and I know it's frustrating for the people involved," Davis said. "It's good that the Army came out and acknowledged the $3 million in back wages. Now what we need to do is make sure that the Department of Labor makes a decision of who's eligible and who's not eligible, and get those who are eligible paid in a timely manner."

Davis said his letters to the Department of Labor and Chao went out this week urging an expeditious resolution of the issue.

It joins a letter sent last month by House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.; a letter sent out in 2006 by former U.S. Rep. Bill Jenkins; and a letter sent to Chao by U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who is on the Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

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