Waikiki construction project raided over labor violation claims - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Waikiki construction project raided over labor violation claims

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WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Government auditors raided a Waikiki hotel Monday morning to investigate claims that a major construction project is using unlicensed contractors and undocumented immigrants.

Their focus is on the $20 million renovation at the Maile Sky Court Hotel, which has been underway for the last several months. 

"We usually react on the basis of some sort of complaint or an inquiry or a tip of some kind, which leads you to believe that there's already something a little questionable going on," said Linda Chu Takayama, director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. 

Takayama confirms her department is working in conjunction with their federal counterpart and several other agencies to determine whether the project contractor is providing all required worker benefits and protections.

"We are trying to make sure that there is a level playing field for all of the other law-abiding corporations and workers," Takayama said. "We're trying to make sure that the state isn't left holding the bag for the care of some of these workers if something goes wrong."

Officials confirm they are also looking into where the workers are undocumented immigrants.

Both the project's general contractor, Selby Construction, and sub-contractor R & R Construction are based in Texas, but investigators were told some employees may be from Guatemala. 

At the work site Monday, a worker who didn't want to use his name in this report said, "I've been paid what we agreed on."

He said he moved from Texas about two months ago and has been living on the sixth floor of the building where renovations are underway. 

Hawaii News Now also contacted Juan Trevino, who was identified by several workers as the project supervisor. He declined to comment on camera. 

However, the owner of Selby Construction defended his company Monday.

"Before we start a project, we make sure we're 100% in compliance with all state laws," said owner Donald Selby. "Everybody on this project is an American and they come from all over America."

Selby says his company has completed similar projects in more than a dozen other states and has never been fined or found in violation.

"It's not unusual to get a complaint, and it's not unusual to get an investigation. What would be unusual for me would be if anything was found to be illegal or not in compliance," he said.

Local management at Maile Sky Court says all 44 floors are being worked on and the nearly 600-unit building is set to re-open as a Holiday Inn Express.

The renovation project is scheduled for completion sometime next year. It's unclear whether the ongoing investigation will impact that. 

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