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Jul 9, 2020

U.B.F.S.U. Holds Peaceful Protest in Belmopan!

Since last week we’ve been reporting on a growing dispute between the University of Belize Faculty and Staff Union and the University of Belize’s administration. The U.B.F.S.U. is only acknowledged as an association because its union certification hasn’t been published and handed over. So, they say that they are being shut out of the university’s discussions to implement cost saving measures in light of the cut in government subvention and other determining factors on the UB’s cash flow. The Union is saying that it needs to be a part of the consultations to represent the interest of its members who stand to be impacted on whatever decision the University takes. Today, the union organized a small demonstration in Belmopan to send a national message that it will not back down from taking on the university’s management on the issue. Here’s a look at how that went.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The University of Belize Faculty and Staff union marched through Belmopan to send a message to the Board of Trustees and the President of the University of Belize. The peaceful demonstration kicked off outside the House of National Assembly. Protestors marched with posters calling for inclusion and for recognition and respect of the union. The protest continued with police and traffic support on to the South Ring Road, then on to the Libertad Avenue and Hummingbird Avenue before it culminated on the grounds of the University of Belize Campus in Belmopan. President of the UBSFU says the protest it a demand for respect and inclusion.


Pio Saqui

Dr. Pio Saqui, President, U.B.F.S.U.

“The purpose of the demonstration is for us to emphasize the point that we must be respected as an equal and social partner to the University of Belize. And our voice must be heard and respected as such. At this moment we are engaged in discussion because we want to know that our members who we represent are equitably represented and their voice are heard and that whatever adjustments are made, are made so that they can all share the same pain.”


The U.B.F.S.U. is at odds with the Board of Trustees and President of the UB. The issue is that U.B. has declared that the institution is on the brink of a financial crisis which will require cost-cutting measures. Now, the UBFSU is demanding that they be included in these important decisions making meetings because it stands to also affect their membership. The Unions says that the University’s senior management has failed to include them from the start when they decided to declare financial exigency and now they are also being locked out of meetings that will help to determine what measures the university will institute to survive this financial crunch.


Dr. Pio Saqui

“We have gotten here because we have not been allowed the opportunity to fairly and meaningfully participate in our consultation process. So, we have not been asked to come as an equal. We have been treated to come piecemeal; come piece by piece. We have been asked to show up and make hurry presentation when we have not been given the right information to do so. So, therefore, the question of being consulted is really big on the platform right now.”


The demonstration ended on the grounds of the UB Campus where executive members and other supporters gave passionate speeches to the protestors. There was also support from the Public Service Union and the Belize National Teachers Union.


June Young

Dr. June Young, Faculty of Education & Arts Rep., University of Belize

“We will not be bullied under the disguise of COVID-19. We demand full disclosures of the financial date. We do not want to see only truncated data with huge numbers. We want to see the raw data with line items; with numbers that we can question and agree on. We want to see monthly cash flows that can tell us where the money is coming from and where the money is going. What do we have in our assets? What do we have in our reserves? We need to know all these things.   The captain of our ship – where is the captain of this ship? The captain is saying that the ship is sinking, brothers and sisters, but where is the captain? The ship is sinking and john public is asking where is the captain who is being paid handsome pennies to steer this ship.”


Dean Flowers, Vice President, P.S.U.

“In this journey of unionism, we must be our brothers’ keepers. You must stand together and do not allow yourselves to be divided. Do not allow fear to kill the dreams of the U.B.F.S.U.”


Fermin Olivera

Fermin  Olivera, Lecturer, University of Belize

“This struggle is not an individual situation. This is about making a statement. This is about bringing about that change that is poised to change. This is part of our problem here – the lack of transparency.”


Elena Smith

Senator Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U.

“Unionism is about support and working together. And when it is that when we need support, people come and support us. The students were out supporting us during the NTUCB demonstration and so it is only fitting then for us as a sister union to offer our support as well. I have had a few meetings with them in the past, from this thing started in January; I have been meeting with them to share with them as new executive to work out the union matters. So I have been meeting with them and giving them some advice as to the process going through them becoming a union. So, I am aware of the situation and we had to support. We understand what they are going through and we agree with what they are doing. So, we had to support.”


On Wednesday, President of U.B., Professor Clement Sankat issued a press release to say that he will host a virtual meeting on Monday to present his recommendations on what the University will do to reduce the projected cash loss of seven point one three million dollars for academic year 2020-2021. Sankat says he will present recommendations after extensive consultations with stakeholders. In that release, he also called on the UB Faculty and Staff reps to submit their recommendations on the next steps.  Sankat says that the most recent financial reports were handed over but the reps haven’t submitted any recommendations. We asked Saqui why those suggestions are still pending.


Dr. Pio Saqui

“Again, I will say because we have not been afforded the opportunity to see the actual data we asked for, we cannot make any recommendations blindly.”


Andrea Polanco

“That release says that you guys have been given the financial records?”


Dr. Pio Saqui

“We have been given partial financial records. We have not gotten full disclosure as we have asked.”


A major contention in this issue is that the UBFSU doesn’t have the documents to claim its union status.  And that is one of the reasons why they are not being admitted to bargain on behalf of the faculty and staff. President Pio Saqui addressed this during his presentation.


Dr. Pio Saqui

“We have not been invited to the table to negotiate because we do not have a paper. That is disrespect. Does that mean that overcomes my ability to see numbers and say that is accurate or not. A piece of paper doesn’t determine that.   We will stand our ground. We will demand respect. We are going to get it. No matter how long it takes. We are going to get it. We will follow due process.   We know that fact is what speaks truth. Like they say, white man liad, black man liad, but black and white nuh tell no lie. And that is what we need to see.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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