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More job cuts coming at UTT

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Staff at the University of T&T (UTT) have started clearing their desks as management gets ready for its retrenchment process by month’s end, just ten days away.

287 members of staff, including academics, are expected to be sent home. When this exercise is completed, it is expected to save the university approximately $41.5 million.

The Sunday Guardian understands that on January 15, in a letter signed by UTT’s President Sarim Al-Zubaidy, he sought to update staff on the restructuring.

In the letter, he stated that on January 11, the separation proposal was submitted to the Recognised Majority Union, the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), as well as the Ministry of Education. “We are currently awaiting feedback from both entities,” Al-Zubaidy stated.

A UTT source said staffers remain "very concerned and scared of what the future holds".

"It is very grim, with this list of 287 to go home, some of them have already cleaned up their desks and just waiting on letters is very frightening."

When contacted yesterday, OWTU’s 2nd vice president Sati-Gajadhar Inniss confirmed that the union received a proposal from Al-Zubaidy.

“We are now carefully reviewing the UTT’s proposal and as such, we have replied informing them an extension of time is required to review and submit a cogent response to both themselves and the ministry,” Inniss said.

The cost saving from the last restructuring exercise which involved academics staff has been estimated at $35.5 million, while the upcoming retrenchment will save an estimated $41.5 million.

"But he is saying a further sum of $20 million as an additional proposal in further reduction of staff…" Inniss added.

"So, who is going to run the administrative aspect of the university?”

She believes the aim is to break workers’ tenure of employment but assured that the union will “do everything within the law” to protect workers.

“We will ensure that even whatever they do, and they can also do things untimely, that we will do everything within the law to protect workers.”

Some people have been working at UTT on contract for the past ten years or more.

It is believed that UTT is moving to have workers sent home before the scheduled March 2018 court date, where workers are seeking regularisation to become permanent members of staff.

Inniss said in December 2016 they requested information about the department sin the university’s structure, each position that exists and the name of the person in that post. They only received that information on January 11, 2018.

Attempts to contact the vice chairman Prof Clement Imbert were unsuccessful.

Roget: We will be responding to Education Minister

OWTU head Ancel Roget said they will be responding directly to Education Minister Anthony Garcia, because he has been presiding at all meetings between the union and UTT. “Indeed, they have intentions of retrenching over 200 workers.”

He also admitted that UTT’s management and the Board have not been providing all the information requested for them to make sense of what they are trying to do at the university.

“If UTT is going to have retrenchment letters sent out they would be acting so in bad faith as we are still in discussions. If they are in violation of instructions from the minister and good industrial relations practice, we will have a problem with that,” Roget said.

More info

For the past several months, UTT has been seeing “hard times” including the cutting of staff—both managerial and academic, the discontinuation of programmes and the late delivery of salaries to staff.

On November 1, 2017, UTT’s Chairman of the Board of Governors Prof Kenneth Julien announced that UTT will not be able to continue operations beyond January 2018.

He also noted that effective November 10, there was expected to be significant job cuts at the managerial and academic levels. Julien said this was a result of severe financial constraints over the past year.

UTT recorded a deficit of $33 million in November 2017 while its reserves currently stand at $2 million.

Meanwhile, $323,059,056 of the university's “unspent funds” have been transferred to the UTT's Signature Building Complex project at Tamana InTech Park.


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