Striking Canadian Union of Public Employees members have settled with the City of Vancouver and been back to work at Carnegie Center on the Downtown Eastside for some time.  But they continue to lock the poor out of services.   

These povertarians got themselves a 20% raise — that’s what their 17.5% raise works out to with compounding — which means that after a period of five years, they will have pocketed an extra full year’s pay. So why are the services that they are being paid to provide still not being consistently provided at Carnegie Center. This problem began long before the strike and led at one point for calls for a forensic audit.

Striking Vancouver Public Library workers, the last to settle, returned to work at the Carnegie Center branch on Wednesday. But they took the morning off, along with other CUPE members in the building. It was Welfare Day and that is a day when CUPE members and City management refuse to consistently keep services open for the poor. Every Welfare Wednesday, the Carnegie Center closes down for the entire morning until noon; neighborhood residents showing up to use computers or the library stand on the steps. The staff congregate in the theatre for what Carnegie members call a schmoozefest; staff call it a meeting. One woman who has lived on the Downtown Eastside for 35 years and has sat on numerous Boards sees through this. “They just want time off.” There are people on welfare all over Vancouver, yet no other community center uses welfare day as an excuse to leave members standing on the front steps.

Not only does Carnegie staff lock the poor out of taxpayer-funded services at the Carnegie Community Centre for the entire morning on Welfare Day, they repeatedly lock them out during “welfare week”. A woman went to Carnegie on Saturday, three days after Welfare Day, only to find the Learning Center locked up tight. CUPE members are responsible for keeping it open on Saturdays; on weekdays CUPE members share that responsibility with two teachers paid by Capilano College.

On Thursday, the day after Welfare Day, a woman went to Carnegie to use the 3rd floor computer room which houses nine much-in-demand Vancouver Public Library computers. She found it locked tight and in darkness, in the middle of the afternoon! There were numerous staff persons on the 3rd floor, just meters from the Computer Room at the time. But the excuse is always the same for locking doors: “A volunteer didn’t show up.” Carnegie has roughly a million dollar wage bill, yet whether services remain open depends on whether some volunteer has gone on a drunk on welfare week.


Mayor Sam Sullivan has known about the great taxpayer rip-off at Carnegie since last year and has done nothing. Nada. Sullivan now says that the CUPE strike will not be over until the 2008 Civic Election when he intends to challenge CUPE’s attempts to run rough shot over City Hall. But Sullivan is going to have to explain why he has been essentially covering for CUPE at Carnegie.

To read complete original article, see Downtown Eastside Enquirer

Related article:
Carnegie Director Accused of Failing to Deliver Services to the Poor

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