Saturday, October 27, 2007

CUPE Continues to Lock Poor Out of Services at Carnegie -- as Mayor Sullivan Cowers

Canadian Union of Public Employees has been back to work at Carnegie Center on Vancouver's 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.

Even if a volunteer is not drinking, they often have better things to do during welfare week than volunteer for 80 cents an hour in food vouchers at Carnegie. Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty who is paid $104,000 and Assistant Director Dan Tetrault, a CUPE member, have been reminded in the past that they should have contingency plans in place. In a pinch, they could sit in the computer room themselves and keep it open. Or CUPE member and Volunteer Co-ordinator Colleen Gorrie and her assistant Sindi, could sit in there for a few hours. They could use the computer reserved for the monitor. (Sindi could show off her new diamond ring to the people in there, just as she does in her office.) But they never do.

As the poor looking for jobs, or wanting to check e-mail, do course work, or just spend time on the information highway are frustrated by locked doors at Carnegie, Ethel Whitty is at times attending plays performed during the Heart of the City Festival. But her own performance back at Carnegie is what she should be focusing on.

It's not that Whitty and CUPE members such as Colleen Gorrie lack initiative. They started a virtual witch hunt at Carnegie for bloggers who were whistleblowing about locked doors last year. This witch hunt resulted in the barring of homeless man and elected Board member, Bill Simpson, for allegedly being involved in a blog. Whitty has persistently slandered bloggers at public meetings, of course never once providing examples to support her false claims. The police were even called to intimidate bloggers as an apparent favor to a CUPE member, but police admitted in the end that what bloggers were writing was accurate. So much taxpayer funded labour time expended on a 'kill the messenger' strategy, but the poor continue to find doors of services at Carnegie locked in mid-day.

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.

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