LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -As many as a couple hundred construction workers showed up at the Juniper Specialty Products plant, not to work, but because they say the company has been holding tools they left there a week ago when their job was shut down.
Contract workers, told they were out of a job last week, returned to Juniper to get their tools back. But they were not allowed in, at least not all at once. They waited with uncertainty in a nearby parking lot. Pipefitters like Robert Keith, a pipe foreman, say they were notified the job was shutting down only after going home for the day.
“Went home Tuesday and our supervisor called us and told us the job had been shut down. They said they would let us know more,” Keith said he was told.
Keith says his tools are worth about $4000 and that not being able to get them has prevented him from accepting other work.
“Pipe wrenches, center finders, there’s wrenches, squares, levels, everything you gotta have. I’ve been up here four times trying to get my tools. I’ve hired in at another job, couldn’t hire in because they holding my tool box. You gotta have tools to work with and I can’t support my kids, my girlfriend,” said Keith.
Plus, he and Jim West say they've spent money traveling here for a week from Buna, Texas to get their tools and can't figure out the holdup.
"You can't go to work without your tools and I’ve never been on a job where they kick you out and at least have your tools to you by the next day at least. It's been a week. You can't hire in nowhere if you ain't got your tools," said West.
West agrees it means financial problems.
"I can't pay my child support, I can't pay my bills, I got stuff to pay. Juniper's had the law up there every day since this has happened, not letting anybody around there or in there," said West.
Juniper company officials said they were pausing construction on the Gas to Liquids (GTL) plant to work on engineering to complete construction and plan for startup activities.
The workers compliment the contractor they work for, APTIM, saying the company has worked diligently to get their tools returned.
We called Juniper about the situation but have not heard back.