Contractor’s heartache after company collapse
CQ BUSINESSMAN DOWNS TOOLS AT SOLAR FARM OWED $1.2M, ANOTHER BLOW AFTER TRAGIC LOSS OF SON
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.