Subcontractors seem to be plagued by problems. Other people’s problems.
This includes insolvency, unjustified payment delays and improper use of retention money.
The Subcontractors Alliance has been chipping away at the granite edifice of indifference and bureaucracy for more than two years.
They melded as an advocacy group with the Walton Construction collapse that left hundreds of trade service and supply business owners with combined debts of more than $60 million.
Members are from disparate backgrounds. Kylie McIlroy has a block-laying business in Townsville; Les Williams has a civil contracting company on the Sunshine Coast and Juanita Gibson runs a tilt panel business in Brisbane.
Kylie and Les with their partners lost more than $900,000 between them when Walton Construction registered for receivership.
A blow like that can only happen once said Ms McIlroy.
“As businesspeople we are proud and you like to think you do your best and run a tight ship,” Ms McIlroy said. “So to lose everything is devastating.
“There’s a perception in the community that subbies are poor businesspeople and in some way deserve what they get.
“However, a lot of it is out of our control. When the terms of payment are 30 days from the end of the month the invoice is lodged, a lot can and does happen.
“We’ve been contacted by the owner of a crane business in south-western Queensland who did all the checks he could have been expected to do and had it signed off by a solicitor as best business practice.
“He was eventually taken down in two bouts of $100,000 losses. It got to the stage where he was looking to see if his ife insurance covered suicide. That just floored me to see how desperate some subcontractors are getting.”
Alliance members acknowledge the State Government is addressing the issue with a ‘security of payments’ listening roadshow held in centres throughout the state this year.
The Alliance will be holding them accountable, said Ms McIlroy.
“We’re hearing all the right noises from (Housing and Public Works Minister) Mick de Brenni but subcontractors have been battling this for decades,” she said.
There were an estimated 490,000-plus subcontractors in the country – which was a significant force should they be focused, Ms McIlroy said.
Search for further information on the Subcontractors Alliance at www.industryadvocate.com.au