After 11 days of the work stoppage at the construction site of the new Cowichan District Hospital on Bell McKinnon Road, work resumed on the morning of Dec. 13 after the protest lines were taken down.
All that remained of the protesters from the contracting companies that fall under the banner of Cowichan Tribes-owned Khowutzun Development Corporation on Tuesday morning was a pile of wood the workers were burning in a barrel to keep warm during the dispute.
But Jodee Dick, CEO of KDC, said the dispute is still unresolved.
She said KDC and Cowichan Tribes have been working closely with Premier David Eby in efforts to resolve the issue and they are hoping that Eby will bring back some sort of offer by Wednesday.
“In the meantime, the workers that were part of the blockade had to get back to other projects they are working on, including the new Cowichan Secondary School,” Dick said.
“It’s less than two weeks before Christmas and continuing the blockade further into the Christmas season is not conducive to anyone. The workers felt that their concerns were duly noted during the blockade.”
Officials at the Ministry of Health said they would try to respond to media questions as soon as possible, and Cowichan Tribes have been contacted for comment.
Workers from the KDC’s contracting companies had been working clearing the hospital site and hauling gravel for some time, but the BC Infrastructure Benefits, the provincial Crown corporation that provides the qualified skilled trades workforce for the construction of public infrastructure projects, refused KDC a permit to continue to work at the site because none of its companies and workers are members of unions accepted by the corporation.
The workers said on Dec. 2 that they were going to continue to block construction until they got a permit from BCIB to allow them to go back to work.
They also made it clear at the beginning of the blockade that the issue is strictly with the BCIB, and the KDC has no problems with unions.
A statement from Cowichan Tribes at the beginning of the blockade said the First Nation and KDC have been meeting for several months, and with increased frequency in recent weeks, with representatives from Island Health, Ministry of Health, BCIB, and the general contractor for the hospital, Ellis Don.
The statement said these meetings explored economic opportunities for Cowichan Tribes’ citizen-owned civil and trucking companies and mechanisms to work outside the BCIB process.