Bargaining Update, November 19th, 2019 CUPE 3799

Another day on the picket line – it was a cold day today and the Union appreciates every member that came out and took part in picket duty today. It’s not easy and I just want to let you know how much your CUPE Executive appreciate each and every member respecting the line.

We are currently at the hands of the University and the Faculty Association when it comes to bargaining matters. Having been down to the WIDC building, across the street from the Ramada, I have seen the University’s bargaining team leave the Ramada on several occasions headed to Cross Roads for lunch; to date,  I have not seen the Faculty Association leave the Ramada. I’m inclined as such to think that the University is the one taking their time at the table.

The Faculty Association has stated to those on the picket lines that they are committed to getting a deal done as quickly as possible. The bargaining team is ready to work through the night, through the weekends, etc. Their frustration comes from the fact that they pass a proposal to the University and the University takes a day or more to reply. When they reply, the Faculty Association are quick to have a counter proposal ready and then they sit and wait.

Having sat on bargaining for three rounds of bargaining now, I know that time to caucus is important. It should not take a full day or more every time a package is passed across the table to respond. Again – weighing what I am being told, and what I am seeing, I have to lean towards the Faculty Association as being more truthful on the matter of who is actually causing the delay with negotiations.

So what is the hold up?? Well, the University and Faculty Association seem to have come to terms with costing wages and salaries, so that issue seems somewhat agreed to. That doesn’t make it a done deal, it does move the meter with how close the two tables are to agreement.

What is still on the table and why can’t these issues be dealt with?

There are some serious things that have been tabled by the University that the Faculty need to address for a couple of reasons.

Some of the issues being demanded by the employer are huge and if agreed to will set precedence for many Faculty members across Canada – that’s how big a deal the issues are. It’s not just our Faculty and their concerns. The University is demanding language that could impact the collective agreements of every Faculty member across Canada, going forward. That’s huge. As such, the Faculty cannot “fast track” issues to get a deal at UNBC.

Secondly, some of the issues being demanded by the employer to get a deal signed are concerning from other angles. They are asking to be able to cancel 36 grievances filed by the FA this year. In other words, if you want a deal – withdraw your grievances. If you have ever been part of a grievance, or submitted a grievance – how would you feel personally if the Union agreed to a deal at the bargaining table that would null and void your grievance?? That’s huge and totally unacceptable.

Lastly, some of the what the employer has tabled pardons the question: is this even legal? Can contracts be canceled randomly to get a contract signed?  Well, that’s a question right there. If you have entered into a contract of employment with the University, should the University be able to put your contract on the table to get a deal signed?

These are not issues for CUPE to address or have to deal with. These are the issues we are being told the Faculty are dealing with at the bargaining table. If this is true – these are huge issues and I can understand why these issues need to be taken off the table.

The University bargaining update today stated their delays are due largely in part to costing. There is no cost associated with canceling contracts, other than possible legal costs to be borne by the University.

On a different note, CUPE 3799 Executive has asked the Faculty Association to cease social media that is deemed inappropriate or disrespectful, especially when it targets people by name. Just to be clear, CUPE 3799 Executive do not condone or appreciate social media tweets or posts that we deem to be inappropriately made by the Faculty Association. It is really sad that some members of the Faculty Association are making the rest of the Faculty Association look bad by their actions with social media. In the words on one CUPE member on the line today, “it’s one or two bad apples that are making the entire Faculty Association look bad”. I agree with that statement. Not all Faculty members are involved and I would ask that CUPE 3799 members do not paint all the Faculty Association members with the same paint brush.

I will be starting the day down at WIDC with a few folk from CUPE BC. I have not spent enough time down at WIDC in the morning to speak with members at that location. It is my priority tomorrow. Please, take the time to reach out and have a conversation with me. I am always open to conversations and try to be clear and transparent in my communication. I find the biggest constraint before me is time. I plan on being down at WIDC for at least an hour tomorrow so please take the time to connect.

We will be leaving WIDC around 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. and headed up to the main campus.

We will be having a meeting on Thursday evening. This is a CUPE 3799 meeting only. I have specifically not asked any Faculty Association members to be in attendance to state their case for bargaining delays. I think it’s important to have the time to be open and clear in our conversations. I know a lot of people are frustrated, angry or confused – possibly a combination of all three. We need time to break this stuff down and work through it.  You may feel that your Executive are blindly following the Faculty Association, we are not. We are asking hard questions and having difficult conversations with the Faculty. I am happy with some conversations and somewhat disappointed with other conversations. We are experienced and knowledgeable. While I trust you to do your job at UNBC every day, please do the same  and allow me the same respect to do my job as President of the Local.

We will be meeting at the Uda dune Baiyou (House of Ancestors Conference Centre) at 355 Vancouver Street, across the street from the Native Friendship Centre. The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. We don’t want to run too late so please try to arrive promptly so we can start on time. There is currently no agenda. As we are not on campus, we do not have the ability to send this meeting out remotely to those unable to attend in person.

Respectfully & in solidarity,


Caroline Sewell


CUPE Local 3799

University of Northern

British Columbia

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