5/08/2008

KBR Questioned on Labor Abuses in Iraq

Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), the former subsidiary of Halliburton , announced today that it was buying Alabama-based BE&K for $500 million. For David Nash, the president of BE&K, and the man who was in charge of handing out reconstruction contracts in Iraq shortly after the U.S. invasion in March 2003, there must be a sense of deja vu to now be employed by one of the biggest building companies working in Iraq.
David Nash spent over 33 years in the U.S. Navy, beginning in Vietnam and ending as the top engineer (he was Chief of Civil Engineers and Commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Command). In late 2003, he was put in charge of the Iraq Program Management Office, most of whose contracts were disastrous failures either because of poor planning, supervision or because they were destroyed by insurgents. Much has been written about the failure of these projects by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and in Blood Money, an excellent book by T. Christian Miller of the Los Angeles Times. The reports are still coming out; a report on Perini's power projects was published at the end of April 2008, which sadly cost the life of one of the auditors who was sent to find out why the project failed.

BE&K is no stranger to KBR: indeed BE&K was sub-contracted to build a temporary tent city after Hurricane Katrina to house 7,000 military personnel and others assisting in the disaster response. Both KBR and BE&K came under scrutiny for firing dozens of unionized electricians, many of them local residents who had their homes destroyed during Hurricane Katrina , in favor of lower-wage migrant workers.

CorpWatch attended KBR's annual meeting today at the Houstonian hotel and met with William Utt, the company CEO, to ask him about the company's policy on the exploitation of migrant workers, particularly in Iraq, where the many sub-contractors employ at least 35,000 Third Country Nationals (largely from South and South East Asia)

Indeed these are the people who are responsible for KBR's boast that it has "served over 500 million meals, delivered 272 million pounds of mail, produced more than 7.5 billion gallons of potable water, transported more than 3.5 billion gallons of fuel, hosted more than 87 million patrons at MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) facilities, logged nearly 3.7 million miles transporting supplies and equipment for the military, and laundered 32 million bundles of laundry for the troops." And this work is set to continue far into the future - KBR has just been awarded a big chunk of the mammoth new $150 billion troop support contract in Iraq. .

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[Source: CorpWatch

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