TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph V. Doria which would remove a loophole in the current prevailing wage law which denies contractors working under private contracts on public land a fair living wage was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 31-6, receiving final legislative approval.
“New Jersey enacted a prevailing wage law because we wanted to ensure a fair living wage for our State’s construction projects,” said Senator Doria, D-Hudson, a member of the Senate Labor Committee. “For the most part, I believe government agencies have fully cooperated with the spirit of the law, and paid contractors on publicly-financed projects decent and honest wages. However, when certain entities seek to avoid their prevailing wage obligation through loopholes in the law, the Legislature has a moral imperative to step in.”
The bill, S-2457, would amend current law to require that prevailing wages be paid on all construction-related contracts for development on property owned by a public body. Currently, prevailing wage is only required on projects paid for with public funds, but this bill would expand that definition to include projects paid for with private funds, but taking place on publicly-owned land. The need for the bill was brought to light in 2003, when a company leasing public lands, Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers, contracted for the renovation of a wing at the Burlington County-owned Buttonwood Hospital, but refused to pay the prevailing wage on the project.
“As far as I can tell, the project at Buttonwood Hospital is within the bounds of the law, even if it violates the spirit of prevailing wage,” said Senator Doria. “We cannot abide such glaring loopholes which allow for private interests to make a profit off the backs of our State’s skilled craftsmen and laborers. This bill ensures that, going into the future, the intention of the prevailing wage law is followed to the letter whenever construction projects benefiting the public are conducted.”
The bill now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.