BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 17, 2020– For several months, the University of Belize’s Board of Trustees and the University of Belize Faculty and Staff Union (UBFSU) had been at odds due to the decision of the board to declare the school to be in a state of financial exigency and the subsequent cost-cutting measures that were proposed by the board on the basis of such a declaration.
The UBFSU objected to the board’s lack of consultation with the union as the official bargaining agent of the university’s staff during its decision-making process.
The board, for its part, rejected such assertions and maintained that they were well within the bounds of their authority to make said decisions without including the UBFSU because it was not a certified bargaining agent.
This prompted the union to engage in a well-attended demonstration in Belmopan on July 9, 2020, which began in front of the National Assembly Chambers.
Days later, on July 13, the UBFSU received its certificate confirming its status as the sole bargaining agent for UB’s staff members who are a part of the union. As a result, the UBFSU and the UB Board of Trustees were able to enter into discussions regarding the school’s finances, and an agreement was finally reached between the two entities two months later.
A press release dated September 15 announced that the two parties had reached an agreement on Friday, September 11, 2020, regarding a number of measures to address the institution’s recent financial shortfall. According to the release, these measures entail “a tiered cut in salaries from 22% to 5%, an increment freeze for the financial year, a Voluntary Separation Program, restructuring of certain areas of the University’s operations, especially those that have been closed through the pandemic or significantly contracted because of our mainly online teaching and reduced student numbers this academic year.”
The release went on to say, “Other subsidiary areas agreed to, included, for example, the ability to work from home with a technology grant and an interest-free loan to eligible employees for the procurement of internet access and a computer/laptop respectively to facilitate this.”
The release further announced that in a matter of six months, the university’s finances would be reviewed to assess the feasibility of returning salaries “near to their previous levels”.
Both parties have agreed to remain in collaborative communication as they navigate through the process of stabilizing the school’s finances, which have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.