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Councilors hold hearing on Marriott workers

Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Baystate Services, overseeing renovations at the Marriott Copley Place, was the target of union protests in January.

Boston councilors held a hearing Monday to examine working conditions at Boston’s Marriott Copley Place following allegations that workers from a Philadelphia church were being used to renovate the property in violation of state wage laws.

Councilor at Large Felix Arroyo said he called the hearing because of concerns that workers from Victory Outreach Church were brought to the hotel for use as cheap labor.

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“A bad economy is not an excuse to race to the bottom,’’ said Arroyo, who submitted a resolution calling on the Marriott’s owner, Host Hotels & Resorts Inc., to ensure that all employees working on the property are paid “fair wages and benefits.’’

The use of workers from Victory Outreach, which provides rehabilitation services to people with substance abuse problems and other issues, has triggered an investigation by Attorney General Martha Coakley into potential violations of state wage laws. The state’s office of labor and workforce development is also investigating the matter.

Authorities are investigating whether the workers were paid below the state’s $8-an-hour minimum wage, and whether subcontractors failed to pay required unemployment insurance taxes.

Monday’s hearing was packed with union laborers who have protested the use of Victory Outreach workers at the Marriott.

Executives with Host Hotels declined an invitation to appear at the hearing, citing the ongoing investigations.

The company instead issued a statement saying that it began looking into concerns about the Copley Marriott project “as soon as we were made aware of them.’’

“We have been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with all inquiries regarding this matter,’’ the statement said. “Equally as important, we have directed our contractors to fully cooperate as well.’’

Baystate Services Inc., the general contractor on the Marriott renovation, also did not attend the hearing. Neither did the subcontractor working with Victory Outreach, a California company called Installations Plus.

A lawyer for Baystate said in a statement that the company requires all of its subcontractors to comply with state wage laws, but that one of its subcontractors hired another entity to perform some of its work at the Marriott.

“It is not known whether that [entity] did comply with the minimum wage law,’’ the statement said. “That subcontractor is no longer on the job and has been replaced by a sub-contractor that is in full compliance with the law.’’

Attempts to get comment from Installations Plus owner George Herrera were unsuccessful Monday.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.
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