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October 16, 2009

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CUPE demands audit in wake of ‘Gold medal bonuses’

BURNABY— At a time when some local businesses have been forced to close and lay off staff because of transportation and security adjustments for the 2010 Games, VANOC’s decision to dole out $30 million in bonuses to staff following the event is an outrageous waste of money that should trigger an immediate audit of VANOC operations, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“Governments are telling everyone in this province to tighten their belts, and people are suffering,” said CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill. “The provincial government has actually held up negotiations with our ambulance paramedics over the same signing bonus that other health care workers receive. And yet it’s okay for VANOC to shell out more than five times that amount for a service that will end on March 1? In what universe is that acceptable?”

O’Neill questioned VANOC’s explanation that the bonuses—which amount to $23,000 for each of the organization’s 1,300 employees, if the $30 million is spent equally—are intended as an incentive for staff to remain on the job until the end of the Games.

“Why is this only coming out now? Where are people going to go in the next few months? Who would leave just before the big party?” O’Neill asked.

Given the proportion of provincial funds involved in the 2010 Games, the CUPE BC president is calling for an investigation of VANOC financial operations by the provincial auditor general.

“These bonuses clearly demonstrate that VANOC, in its mission to pull off the best games ever, has completely lost touch with the current economic reality facing all British Columbians,” said O’Neill.

“I think an audit is long overdue. Some of this bonus money could help reverse the effect of cuts to the annual facilities grant to schools. Some of it could fund a fair settlement for our ambulance paramedics—including improvements to their facilities throughout the province. Some of it could support housing initiatives for the homeless. Some of it could contribute to the Fraser Health Authority’s $160 million deficit.

“It’s time for VANOC to get real. And it’s time for the Province to step up. Let’s not forget that this same government has been directing staff to work in secondments for VANOC and asking the private sector to donate their staff with no additional compensation.”

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