Sabotage charges emerge in Miami airport escalator contract dispute – NBC 6 South Florida
A panel of Miami-Dade County commissioners heard allegations of sabotage at Miami International Airport on Tuesday afternoon during an ongoing dispute over government contracts between a unionized company and a non-unionized company.
Commissioners from the PortMiami and Environmental Resilience Committee referred the matter to the Miami-Dade Police Department. The commissioners say the county attorney and inspector general are already investigating allegations between the unionized company, Schindler, and the non-unionized company, Oracle.
At stake is a contract to operate and maintain the county’s elevators and escalators at the seaport and airport worth tens of millions of dollars.
Schindler, whose employees are represented by the International Union of Elevator Builders, has the remaining $44 million contract with the county. They took over the company after the county mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, terminated the contract with the non-union company Oracle due to safety complaints disputed by the company.
Now, representatives from former contractor Oracle say “third-party sabotage” caused some of the security issues.
These are wires called “jumpers”. These are crucial components that can bypass safety equipment that can prevent escalators and elevators from stopping. According to Oracle representatives, their riders have unique ID numbers, and more than a dozen have been found on escalators without these numbers, describing them as “homemade”.
“We thought it was sabotage. We thought it was vandalism. We thought they should get the police department involved,” said Mike West, senior vice president at Oracle.
Oracle has contracts in over 30 cities. West tells NBC 6 that these “homemade” jumpers were only found in Miami and only when their employees voted to unionize with the International Union of Elevator Builders.
“We recently inspected over 14,000 lifts in our portfolio, outside the airport, and we have yet to find a single jumper among those 14,000. But there were 15 found in the airport on just 382 devices,” West said.
“This is not an investigation for the Inspector General. This is an investigation for the police department,” Commissioner Joe Martinez said during the public hearing. “It puts lives at risk.”
The jumpers were found in March 2020, according to county staff. The second incident took place in December 2020. The union organized a nearly year-long effort to oust the non-union company, distributing flyers at the airport and even launching a website warning of the safety record company, according to the Miami Herald.
“Oracle has yet to present a single piece of evidence to support their desperate claims that they are the victim of third-party sabotage,” Abel Arabitg, a national union organizer, wrote to NBC 6. “The Truth is that the jumpers were found throughout the airport over a period of ten months and were later found in Aventura at the scene of a workplace death.Oracle’s safety record is disgraceful at best, and they don’t left the mayor no choice but to terminate his county contract.
The meeting of the panel of commissioners overseeing the port heard from Oracle representatives as well as senior officials from Mayor Levine Cava’s office.
“There were complaints that had been received regarding certain performance issues at the seaport for example. There were some issues that concerned the administration,” Jimmy Morales, Miami-Dade’s chief operating officer, told the commission.
Mayor’s staff and union representatives report safety issues and “performance issues”. One example cited was when several elevators stopped working in the Royal Caribbean building at the seaport. County staff said the cruise line took over and repaired the elevators themselves.
The county inspector general is also investigating Oracle on employee licensing. These results are still pending.
“Since Oracle’s original contract was awarded under the previous administration, the county has received reports of troubling security issues as well as the inability to complete essential services in a timely manner,” the county wrote. Administration Chief Operating Officer Levine Cava, Jimmy Morales, at NBC 6. Assuring our community, employees and the traveling public that our facilities are operating safely and smoothly, we have exercised the ‘no-fault’ termination clause of the county and launched a tendering process to find the most qualified supplier to provide these important services. »
The County Procurement Office currently has a Request for Proposal (RFP) requesting bidders for the future contract. Allegations between the two companies are being forwarded to police, the state’s attorney and the inspector general, according to staff and county commissioners.
Oracle also filed a lawsuit for termination of the contract, claiming the mayor favors one of several unions that have backed his political campaign.
Schindler earns over $70,000 more per month than Oracle. Oracle had the $44 million escalator equipment contract at MIA and PortMiami since 2018. Schindler was the highest bidder in 2018, almost double Oracle’s offer. Schindler pays its union labor more than Oracle. To overcome this competitive disadvantage, a non-profit fund associated with the union is helping to make up the difference.