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UTT a feeding trough for parties—Roget

Published: 
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Education Minister Anthony Garcia, left, and OWTU president general Ancel Roget shake hands after the meeting at the Ministry of Education in Port-of-Spain yesterday.

Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget yesterday admitted that the University of T&T (UTT) had become a “feeding trough” for political parties, which ultimately led to its unviability.

Roget made the comment while addressing the media following a 90-minute meeting with Education Minister Anthony Garcia and UTT chairman Prof Ken Julien at the Education Ministry, Port-of-Spain, to discuss the university’s future.

Roget said while no information was forthcoming on how many of UTT’s 1,000 workers will be sent home and how they intended to restructure the organisation, he was not disappointed. He said the union, UTT and Garcia will meet again on December 6 for further discussions.

At a press conference yesterday, Garcia assured that no decision had been taken to dismiss UTT’s staff “at this point in time.”

However, Roget vowed that if workers are retrenched in the coming days the OWTU will exercise their options and “it would be no turning back.” Holding these options close to his chest, Roget said it will be an element of surprise that will be “potent,” which he would roll out next Friday.

“We are not going to take this lying down. They (Government) condemned those who were in control and in governance for not doing a proper job, but they are doing a worse job so far.”

He said the OWTU was disgusted, dismayed and dissatisfied with the Government.

“They are a most ungrateful bunch of people…this PNM Government.”

Roget said while Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had given a commitment not to send State workers home until after December 31, the OWTU has been hearing hundreds of jobs are being threatened.

However, if there is any contemplation of sending workers home, Roget said the Government must bring its case to the National Tripartite Advisory Council. He said there was a Labour Economic Alternative Plan which outlines alternatives as the country battles its hardships, which they had presented to the Finance Minister but got no response.

“The Government is myopic and bankrupt of ideas. If they make the case every year for more people to go home with less revenue, the economy will grind to a halt. What the Government is doing is preparing the country for the International Monetary Fund. They are imposing IMF conditionalities on the population,” he said.

Roget said while the salaries of UTT staff had not been adjusted since 2007, UTT was top-heavy. One recommendation the OWTU has put forward is to examine the salaries of the university’s top level staff, he said.

“Where they have serious expenses with respect to salary is at the top… the presidents and the vice presidents and so on. A significant number of vice presidents and the managers…the university is top-heavy with persons who really ought not to be there in the first place.

“The university became unviable because of this top heaviness and it has lost its way. It was the UNC’s snout in the trough not too long ago. Now it is the PNM snout in the trough.”

He said while the Government is faced with a shortage of foreign exchange, one UTT worker who is a foreigner was paid in US dollars. Roget said he heard this top-level staff is paid $240,000 a month.