LAGAN HOLDINGS, the Northern Ireland airfield works and asphalt company, is at the centre of a row in Hong Kong over a contract to resurface the runways at Chek Lap Kok airport.
The firm has been accused of using illegal workers from Britain and Ireland to work on the scheme. It strenuously denies the claims and is supported by the Airport Authority.
The Hong Kong Construction Materials Association has made the claims. after several of its members lost the resurfacing contract to Lagan.
The wrangle came to a head last week when the association's director Robert Taylor sent a letter to the head of Hong Kong's immigration department asking officials to probe Lagan's workforce.
In his letter Taylor said: 'It is believed that almost all of the 50 to 70 workers engaged on this contract are not Hong Kong residents and (. . . ) do not have Director of Immigration approval to work in Hong Kong.
Clearly if this were found to be the case, it would constitute a major breach of the immigration laws. I would ask that you investigate the issues as a matter of urgency to ensure that the immigration laws of Hong Kong are upheld.'
Responding to the claims, Brian Cody, Lagan Holdings project manager, said he had not seen the letter, but the accusations 'are totally wrong.
All the guys have work permits.
The workers are all legal. We are operating within the law'.
Airport Authority spokesman Chris Donnolley backed Cody's comments. He said: 'Officially contractors have to comply with all laws of Hong Kong.
'If they are not then the Immigration Department and other authorities will take them to task over it. They do have specialist workers who have all got visas.'
There has been anger within the Hong Kong materials industry after Northern Irish company Lagan Holdings won its contract to resurface both the northern and southern runways and taxiways at Chek Lap Kok. Lagan's tender price of about £7.1M was some £710,000 cheaper than its closest rival.