Con­trac­tor’s heartache af­ter com­pany col­lapse

CQ BUSI­NESS­MAN DOWNS TOOLS AT SO­LAR FARM OWED $1.2M, AN­OTHER BLOW AF­TER TRAGIC LOSS OF SON

Central Telegraph - - CQ INDUSTRY - Michelle Gately [email protected]­news.com.au

MAX Fletcher downed tools on the Collinsville so­lar pro­ject in June, owed close to $1.2 mil­lion.

A week later, his son Tom, 19, was crit­i­cally in­jured in a hor­ror car crash and died in hos­pi­tal.

Mr Fletcher has for months been fight­ing the com­pany that con­tracted him, RCR Tom­lin­son, to be paid the money he says he is owed.

He was de­ter­mined to keep the mat­ter pri­vate, but came to The Morn­ing Bul­letin this month be­cause he believes his is about to lose the busi­ness he’s spent seven years build­ing, as well as his house.

Mr Fletcher said the ex­pe­ri­ence felt like a “ridicu­lous night­mare”.

When asked how it’s af­fected him emo­tion­ally, Mr Fletcher replied: “It’s cruel, mate”.

While he des­per­ately wants to save the busi­ness, Mr Fletcher said he would con­sider clos­ing it to save the fam­ily home which holds so many mem­o­ries of Tom.

Mr Fletcher was con­tracted by RCR to con­duct earth­works at the Collinsville so­lar power pro­ject, start­ing work in Septem­ber.

RCR were con­tracted for works on four other Queens­land so­lar farms, with work­ers and other sub-con­trac­tors left in limbo last week when the com­pany an­nounced it had gone into ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mr Fletcher’s com­pany, Fletcher Group Qld, was con­tracted to do the earth­works and he es­ti­mates they com­pleted the ma­jor­ity of road build­ing and civil con­struc­tion at the site.

Af­ter a tough cou­ple of years in Rock­hamp­ton, Mr Fletcher started look­ing fur­ther afield for work.

He won ten­ders at New­cas­tle and Yaamba be­fore Collinsville.

“I walked off site two times,” he said. “I walked off once at Christ­mas time last year, they owed us at that stage $600,000.”

Although RCR would par­tially pay in­voices, Mr Fletcher said there had been money owed to his com­pany the whole time he worked on site.

De­spite work­ing at the site from Septem­ber 2017, Mr Fletcher said they didn’t get a signed con­tract un­til March.

Mr Fletcher said his com­pany was send­ing 20 to 30 in­voices per week be­fore this, many of which went un­paid or were only par­tially paid.

He said the site was “mis­man­aged from the start”, but was quick to point out the pro­ject de­vel­op­ers who con­tracted RCR to con­struct the so­lar farm had been “ex­cep­tional” to work with.

Mr Fletcher said RCR “played each con­trac­tor off on each other all the time”, by pay­ing one com­pany and not an­other.

At the end of May, Mr Fletcher again asked RCR to set­tled its debts and in­structed his em­ploy­ees to down tools.

A few days later, RCR ad­vised him there was no more work at the site.

By that time, their un­paid in­voices to­talled $1.2 mil­lion.

Mr Fletcher took le­gal ac­tion against the com­pany, spend­ing roughly $20,000 on solic­i­tors, to re­coup about $486,000 in undis­puted money.

He said RCR still owes him more than $280,000.

Mr Fletcher said his ex­pe­ri­ence was mir­rored by many other sub­bies on the site.

“We’re look­ing at hav­ing to close up our busi­ness,” Mr Fletcher said.

“I worked damn hard. Two years ago we nearly lost ev­ery­thing and my son and my­self busted our ar­ses to get back to square one.”

With on­go­ing fi­nan­cial strug­gles, Mr Fletcher has al­ready had to let about 20 em­ploy­ees go.

He and wife Mar­garet hope to avoid hav­ing to sell their fam­ily home, which holds the last pre­cious mem­o­ries of Tom.

The emo­tional toll has been al­most crip­pling.

Mr Fletcher said when the le­gal ac­tion against RCR started, he asked the spokesper­son to con­tact him only through his lawyer given his son’s death.

He said their re­sponse was to say they would make sure any court ac­tion was tied up for months.

McGrathNi­col have been ap­pointed as vol­un­tary ad­min­is­tra­tors and are un­able to com­ment on spe­cific cases.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tors will work closely with RCR’s em­ploy­ees, sup­pli­ers and cus­tomers to quickly sta­bilise op­er­a­tions and to de­ter­mine the ap­pro­pri­ate strat­egy for the busi­ness. A sale process will be com­menced im­me­di­ately,” a McGrathNi­chol state­ment said.

BET­TER DAYS: Max Fletcher at the Collinsville so­lar farm where he com­pleted the ma­jor­ity of the earth­works. He is owed money by pro­ject con­trac­tors RCR Tom­lin­son.

Af­ter a hor­ror ac­ci­dent Tom Fletcher passed away in July. In the months since, dad Max has also been fight­ing a le­gal bat­tle to be paid for work.

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