November 21st, 2019 evening update on FA job action

I want to thank people for being front and center with me in our conversations over the past week. I have appreciated everyone’s candor, feedback and viewpoints when expressing their issues and concerns with me. There have been some hard questions, difficult conversations, and sometimes needed criticisms from people for the way I have spoken about things, or dealt with things, but not once have I felt any level of disrespect from any one. I am very proud to be involved with a group of people who carry themselves with such grace at all times, even when things are difficult or when people are really struggling. If I haven’t said it before I think the support staff at UNBC are utterly amazing!

We had a special membership meeting this evening that was fairly well attended, approximately 80 people. The meeting ran to 9:00 p.m., it was important that people were given an opportunity to speak, raise their concerns and, in some cases vent.

What we discussed:

  1. Setting up a hardship fund for those members that are in dire need. A motion was put on the floor that CUPE 3799 create a hardship fund. After discussion, a vote was held and the motion was carried unanimously. CUPE 3799 is now in process of setting up a hardship fund committee. We will be doing this as quickly as possible so we can provide assistance as quickly as possible. In typical fashion, I have asked the mover of the motion, Peter James, to become the Chairperson of the committee to get things rolling. It’s been an effective way to get things in place from my place as President of the Local, as I find when the mover of a motion such as this is heading up the committee/process, they have already given a lot of thought to things and are on a path to getting things done. A  process, application form, and some guidelines need to be drafted. We need a few people to step up to assist with this process. I will sit on the committee to provide guidance and as a cheque signor but Peter will really head this committee. I have one member that has already volunteered to assist with the committee. If you are interested in sitting on this committee, please contact Peter James directly at I see that Peter has already sent me an email this evening, so I will include a snippet of his email to me here:  “My suggestion would be to keep things as simple as possible and to keep the committee as small as possible for the time being in order to expedite the process.” As such, we only will need a handful of people involved to get this up and running. I will convey any and all communication that Peter requests that I forward to the membership, so please look for more information to come out soon. We have committed to meeting this Saturday to get things started.
  2. Members inquired about donating funds, especially the money they are receiving from the Faculty Association’s $10,000 donation last week on their strike pay this Friday. If you want to contribute funds, please contact Peter James. Once we have something in place, moving forward it will be an easier process.
  3. Food bank – Joyce Henley has offered to start the process of accepting non-perishable food items for a food bank. This is an awesome way to assist members when you really don’t know what else to do. If you want to make a donation please contact Joyce at  She may take your donation at the line or request that you drop items off at her home or with a Picket Captain, depending on picketing location and timing. If you have questions, please contact Joyce directly.
  4. Several members brought forward concerns regarding social media and how CUPE 3799 is addressing social media as well. While we do not agree nor support some of the Faculty Association members’ use of social media, CUPE 3799 members are again asking the Local to take a higher road. As such, I have asked several members who have expressed their concerns to communicate with Dale Laluk, who is dealing with the majority of social media under the heading of CUPE 3799. If you are one of the members who stated that you wanted to have some ground rules in place, please reach out to Dale. You may want to meet as a group to have a conversation as well; it doesn’t have to be a big, complicated meeting – it could be a simple meeting over coffee at Tim Horton’s or Starbucks.
  5. EI – There may be members in our Local that require assistance with EI and/or Medical EI. The Local cannot provide any guidance on EI itself. With the last round of job action in 2015 and again with this job action, answers from EI change with every phone call made, every visit to an office, or with any conversation with people at EI. If you want to apply, please do so. The Local is not trying to stop any one from applying at all. All we can say is that there is no clear direction or language on applying for EI when in this position, supporting a picket line at the worksite. I try to provide clear, accurate information, I cannot do this with EI as there isn’t any clear answer.
  6. Medical EI – this is a different beast. Medical EI has a completely different claim process. If you think that you might need Medical assistance and want to access Medical EI, please go through your doctor to start this process. Once you have confirmation that your doctor believes you need assistance, you can apply for Medical EI. You may be requested by EI to supply a medical note but chances are highly likely that you will not be asked to produce the doctor’s note. Please ensure you have a note if so requested as not having a medical note ready to produce may complicate or null and void your claim. Medical EI has a different turn around as well, claims can be started within a week in some cases. Your Executive are definitely advising members that require medical accommodations to go through the Medical EI process. We respect each and every member’s individual case and do not want to impede anyone in the process. If you require assistance, please ask. We do not need or want any medical information from you, we can assist with the process without having that information. As I state every time, we are not the employer, we do not require any of your medical information to be able to assist you.

This has been a difficult time for many members of the Local. Please ensure you check in with those people around you to see how they are doing and ask if they need help. Some people may need someone to listen to them vent; some may need encouragement to seek out help whether it be medical, mental or spiritual; some may simply need a hug; some may need a hot drink because they can’t afford a coffee. Everyone’s needs right now are different and unique. If you know someone needs assistance and you just don’t know how to help, please reach out. We have many amazing, kind and resourceful people within our ranks and membership. Don’t be afraid to ask, don’t be afraid to share, and don’t feel like you have to share if you need help!!

Please remember that myself and the rest of the Executive are all volunteers and we are doing the best we can to work through this difficult time – we are far from perfect and we will make mistakes, guaranteed. I know that’s an absolute statement – but I know it to be 100% truthful!!

One day longer than the strike is all we need to achieve & then we can begin the process of figuring out how we get back to work. One member tonight spoke about it with passion and honesty: “it’s about relationships that we have with people at UNBC”. I couldn’t agree more. We are a community first and foremost, always think about that. We will always have people that annoy us, that make us angry, that make us want to sit at the other end of the table so we don’t have to talk to them – but at the same time, we will always have good conversations, shared goals and the pride at working at the best place in Prince George. I am a proud member of the community at UNBC, I hope at the end of the day, so are you.

Respectfully & in solidarity,


Caroline Sewell


CUPE Local 3799

University of Northern

British Columbia


What have you done in your union to raise a member up? If not you, then who??