BELIZE CITY, Thurs. July 2, 2020– The University of Belize’s board of trustees received a letter dated July 1 from a disgruntled UB Faculty and Staff Union (UBFSU) regarding the institution’s alleged financial situation. The letter, which is addressed to the board’s chairman, Harrison Pilgrim, and signed by UBFSU president, Pio Saqui, and general secretary, Christopher Deshield, stated that at the last board meeting an oral presentation was given by the president of the university, Dr. Clement Sankat, which gave a dire portrait of UB’s finances.
The union asserts, however, that no concrete evidence of the school’s financial state was presented before the vote nor was any information shared on how the financial situation at the university would affect the employees of the university.
Additionally, at a meeting held on Monday, June 29, a digital presentation on the school’s finances was delivered for the periods of 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, but no printed copies of the presentation or other tangible material was shared with the attendees.
Under these conditions, the union feels that they were not afforded an adequate opportunity to analyze the necessary information. The union also feels that the presentations were a farce, given that COVID-19 did not appear until 2019 and the effects weren’t felt in Belize until March of 2020; therefore, financial information should have been provided for the period of 2019-2020 up to this point.
The union’s letter asserts that they were to be consulted about the decision to declare UB to be in a state of financial exigency, given that they are the sole bargaining agent for the faculty and staff and are supposed to be included in all mitigation measures affecting its members. Also, in accordance with the International Labor Organization and the Labor Laws of Belize, the UB president should have consulted with the union and engaged in a bilateral dialogue in which the union would have been a partner and not a subordinate. The union asserts that no transparent consultation was held with its membership.
Subsequently, the letter expressly states that the information presented to the board does not represent the union’s input but in fact “erodes the members’ constitutional rights to property among other things.” The union also warned that any attempt by the president to speak with the faculty and staff regarding terms and conditions of service is known as “union busting” and must cease.
The letter concluded with the ultimatum:
“Given where we are, that is, without any concrete information to make an informed decision, we are not in position to support any recommendations or any suggestions of any kind which is tantamount to no transparency on the part of our employers. However, we are mindful that we are a part of the process and we would be grateful to receive the following documents by 9th of July, 2020.
1. Additional financials for 2018-2019 and whatever may be available for 2019-2020.
2. Any policy that the board may have revised regarding financials and matters of redundancy
“Two weeks after receiving and analyzing the information, thereafter, we are prepared to meet and submit recommendations on the way forward.”