Demonstrators and heavy equipment surrounded the Yukon government building this morning.
Whitehorse-based Norcope Enterprises was protesting what it considers a breach of contract work it was hired to do on the Whistle Bend subdivision.
Norcope has the contract to install shallow and deep utilities for Whistle Bend.
At issue is more than $2 million in work given to Sidhu Trucking to raise road levels.
Norcope was ready to do the work, and had equipment in place, but was issued a stop-work order from the government, said Doug Gonder, Norcope’s president.
“Our intentions right now are to stop the job,” he said. “It’s a breach of contract and there will probably be legal action taking place at whatever levels we need to do to intercept this.
He accuses the government of “bid shopping.”
“When they ignore the items in that contract that prevent them from pulling out, and bring in whoever they feel like … I’ve never heard of it in my 35 years of experience as a contractor.”
The government denies doing anything wrong.
“That work does not form part of Norcope’s contract,” said Matt King director of communications for Community Services.
It was not put out for tender, but was awarded as a “change order” to Sidhu’s existing contract.
Change orders are fairly common on large projects, said King.
“We had two contractors on site, and the additional work was added to one of the contractors that could do the work,” said King.
Given the size and scope of the work, it was inappropriate to just award the contract to a company “behind closed doors,” said Gonder.
“There’s 250,000 metres of dirt to import,” he said. “That’s probably larger than five large road jobs in the Yukon.
“If they wanted to change the job that much, that should have went out to the general public for tender.”
Community Services would not comment on how that decision was made, as it is still under dispute.
Norcope tried to negotiate with the government, but the mediator it dispatched was the brother of a Sidhu supervisor, a major conflict of interest, said Gonder.
“Some of the stuff that he came back and offered us was just hilarious,” he said.
The issue Norcope faces is larger than just this one contract, said Gonder.
“We’re representing the other contractors because, if they’re able to change a job that drastically and cause financial harm to the contractor, this jeopardizes every contract that a contractor gets into with the government,” he said.
Sidhu could not be reached for comment before press time.
Contact Josh Kerr at firstname.lastname@example.org