Subcontractors to protest at new AIT building in Taipei

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Subcontractors said they would protest against a contracting dispute at the new site for the American Institute in Taiwan Sunday.
AIT, the representative office of the United States in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic relations, is building a new compound in Taipei’s Neihu District.
Wei Chuan Arch Contracting Co. said Saturday that US-based Weston Solutions, Inc. owed it and two other companies a total of NT$473.83 million (US$15.8 million) on the project, forcing them to lay off workers and to put some others on leave without pay.
The Taiwanese company said the subcontractors had written AIT several times to complain about the matter, but the US office never bothered to respond, according to a report in the Chinese-language United Evening News Saturday.
An AIT spokesperson said the affair was a dispute between Weston and Wei Chuan Arch, but because of the importance of the Neihu project as a symbol of US-Taiwan relations, AIT was closely watching the matter and hoped a solution could be found which would be satisfactory to all sides.
Wei Chuan Arch said it hoped the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could intervene in the case to help with the speeding up of payments.
Bruce Linghu, the head of MOFA’s Department of North American Affairs, said the ministry was not aware of how building on the project was progressing. Since the dispute involved contracts, it was purely a commercial matter which MOFA could not intervene in, Linghu was quoted by the United Evening News as saying.
The subcontractors had filed the necessary application to hold a protest at the construction site Sunday morning, Wei Chuan Arch said, but if AIT continued to remain aloof, the companies might decide to stop work altogether and let the project drag on indefinitely.
The newspaper reported that most work on the first phase of the project, which involved Weston, seemed to have moved more slowly, though the second phase was already under construction.
The problems with the US firm started in 2011, when payments became slower without any reason or explanation coming from the company, Wei Chuan Arch said. Last year, Weston made promises but the situation worsened, according to the Taiwanese subcontractor.