A rally against the contracting out of services at a Burnaby care home on Saturday took an unexpected turn when those who gathered outside the George Derby Centre received a surprise announcement.

Health care workers, politicians and the families of the centre’s residents were prepared to protest against the planned layoffs of 90 unionized workers who deal with the centre’s housekeeping, laundry, and food and nutrition.

The centre had said the cost-savings measure would allow it to hire lesser-paid contractors. It’s a move that the centre’s executive director said would increase the level of care given to residents, many of whom are veterans.

But partway through Saturday’s demonstration, George Derby Centre board member Ike Hall arrived to announce a moratorium on the layoffs.

The announcement was greeted with loud cheers, but Hall says the centre’s problems are far from over.

“Two years ago, Veterans Affairs Canada took one million dollars from us,” he said. “Last year, Veterans Affairs Canada took one million dollars from us. We went down and begged, and we fought and we shouted, and we didn’t get anything.”

Hall said the B.C. government did provide the centre some money, but Veteran Affairs took the money away. On Saturday, he appealed to those at the rally to put some pressure on Ottawa for additional funding.

Veterans Affairs Canada was not available for comment.

With files from CTV British Columbia’s Penny Daflos