MERRIMACK, N.H. — Construction workers are used to getting to job sites before dawn.
Earlier this week, about 50 carpenters, electricians, pipefitters, plumbers and other tradesmen showed up on Industrial Drive at the entrance to Merrimack Premium Outlets.
They didn’t come to work, but to protest not working.
The mall developer, Premium Outlets/Simon, of New Jersey, promised them jobs and then turned around and hired out-of-state workers, the protestors claimed.
Simon promised local building trades that construction would be done by local workers, said John Jackson, a carpenter with Local 118, based in Manchester.
“They’ve broken that promise,” Jackson said. “They came to us when the project was going through the planning and zoning phase.”
“We did a lot of work” promoting the outlets during the contentious 2005 vote that went before Merrimack residents, said Liz Skidmore, also of Local 118.
Simon promised local tradesmen that they’d get the work if they helped with the approval process, Skidmore said.
Instead, jobs went to workers from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Texas, George, Arkansas and a host of other states, protesters said.
In response, Simon management released a statement through the Boston-based public information firm Kortenhaus Communications.
“We have cooperated with the unions from the beginning of the project,” Simon said in the statement. “The project was always planned as a publicly bid open shop.”
“Unions have had the opportunity to bid on all work,” Simon said. “The process resulted in about 50 percent of the labor being union. We are pleased that Merrimack Premium Outlets has already brought many new jobs to the area and we look forward to our opening which will employ hundreds of area residents in new retail jobs.”
The center, to feature more than 100 clothing, home goods and other retail stores, is set to open June 14 off Exit 10 of the F.E. Everett Turnpike.
The original developer, Chelsea Property Group Inc., of New Jersey, which later was bought by Simon Property Group, has been working since fall 2004 to build a center of upscale shops on 160 acres owned by Nashua real estate developer Thomas Monahan.
From the project’s conception, proponents argued that the outlets would broaden Merrimack’s tax base and provide jobs for local people, beginning with jobs of tradesmen and construction workers who would build the center.
“We’re all members of the New Hampshire building trades, and we’re part of the community,” Jackson said.
And not just one union or trade was affected by the developers’ decision to hire workers from outside New Hampshire, Jackson said.
Local carpenters, plumbers, pipe-fitters, electricians, insulation workers and bricklayers all lost out to workers from other states, Jackson and Skidmore said.
The workers hired were from companies that don’t pay workers compensation and unemployment, and thus were able to underbid local workers by 30 percent, Jackson said.
Skimore termed that a “cheaters premium.”
The protest, which began at about 5 a.m., dispersed by 11 a.m.
(c)2012 The Telegraph (Nashua, N.H.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services