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EAST NORRITON, PA-Almac’s planned $100 million headquarter project in Lower Salford has come under fire from the Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. ABC has launched a marketing campaign to draw attention to Almac’s and the project’s general contractor, Skanska USA’s, decision to hire only union workers for the building.

ABC contends that Skanska and Almac have elected to utilize a union-only project labor agreement for the Lower Salford project. According to Geoffrey Zeh, president and CEO of ABC SEPA, such agreements, which ABC claims are discriminatory, are more commonly found in Philadelphia, where the unions tend to be more prominent. In a prepared statement, Skanska refuted the claim that they had signed a project labor agreement. Skanska’s statement did say that they had labor agreements with trade unions in southeastern Pennsylvania, which covers the Almac project.

The company goes on to say that while it does not discriminate in hiring based on union or non-union membership, it intends to honor its labor agreements. Further comment from Skanska was not available as of press time.

ABC claims that only 25% of construction workers in the greater Philadelphia area belong to a union. The remaining 75% are merit or open shop workers. ABC represents more than 23,000 merit workers nationwide, nearly 500 of then in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

“This project is right in our backyard,” Zeh tells GlobeSt.com. “It’s the kind of project that our members would routinely work on and would be afforded an opportunity to work on. Our members are tired of being pushed around, particularly because there are taxpayer funds involved with this project. They’re paying taxes to support the project but can’t work on it.”

The state gave Almac, based in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, several grants and loans to encourage the company to remain in Pennsylvania, where it already has two facilities, in Audobon, Montgomery County and Yardley, Bucks County. The incentives included a $9 million funding offer from the Department of Community and Economic Development, which consisted of a $4.5 million grant through the infrastructure and facilities improvement program, a $2 million Pennsylvania industrial development authority loan and almost $1 million in job creation tax credits.

“If private projects and owners want to waste their money, that’s their prerogative,” says Zeh, “but when taxpayer dollars are involved, it’s a different story. If they’d allowed this project to be bid on by everybody, including non-union workers, they might not need any or a lot of the tax breaks and grants associated with the project.”

According to Zeh, the project was originally meant to be open to everybody, but after a meeting between Skanska, Almac and union representatives, he was advised that the project would be union only. ABC’s advertising campaign aims to reverse Almac’s and Skanska’s decision.

“We want to call the attention of all the folks in the local community and convince Skaksa and Almac that it’s in their interest to open the job up to all qualified contractors,” he says.

Ground is expected to break on the 240,000-sf project sometime in 2008, with an expected delivery date in 2010, as GlobeSt.com exclusively reported. Almac plans to consolidate the operations of its two Pennsylvania facilities at the new site, retaining nearly 500 existing positions and creating upwards of 200 more in the next three years. Total cost of the project is expected to hover around $100 million.

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