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 Labor Committee today by a vote of 4-0.
“New Jersey adopted the prevailing wage law as a means to ensure our State’s building contractors are fairly compensated for their work,” said Senator Doria, D-Hudson, a member of the Labor panel. “However, as we’ve seen in practice, confusion over the language and loopholes which violate the spirit of the law have allowed some employers to shirk their responsibilities of fair wage and benefits for contractors. This bill addresses the ambiguity in the current law, and ensures that we live up to our commitment as detailed by the promise of the original prevailing wage.”
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.
“The renovations at Buttonwood Hospital fall should have been a textbook example of the prevailing wage gone right, but because of confusion in the law, the intention of prevailing wage was violated,” said Senator Doria. “Prevailing wage cannot be a ‘sometimes-only’ pact with contractors in New Jersey – it has to be an ironclad rule whenever construction takes place on publicly-owned property. The clarifications in my bill will make sure that the State and other public entities honor the prevailing wage law in good faith, and do not look to exploit loopholes in the system.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.