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Duplication caused cuts

Published: 
Thursday, May 17, 2018
As fired UTT workers start protest, West tells Senate:

Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West says duplication of University of T&T and UWI programmes was the reason Government reviewed UTT’s operations and terminated 30 positions. But she pointed out that nobody complained when the former People’s Partnership government fired 85 UTT staffers between 2011 and 2012 .

“When the PP/UNC fired 85 UTT staff over May 2011 to February 2012, some professors contracted from other countries were told they had to return home or face Immigration authorities. But when we review UTT’s operations and address duplication of posts - big hue and cry!” West said in the Senate on Tuesday night.

West defended the termination of the staffers when she wound up debate on the mid-year review and supplementation and variation of Budget 2018 funding levels for some divisions. The sitting which began at 10 am and ended by 11.25 pm.

UTT fired the workers last Friday as it began a cost-cutting exercise. Some of them began fasting outside the Education Ministry yesterday, demanding reinstatement. They wore white as they held a silent protest outside and attempted to speak with Education Minister, Anthony Garcia, but was not allowed to meet with him. Some students were also seen standing in solidarity with their former lecturers.

But in the Senate West said the ministry had reviewed UTT’s programmes because during the period 2010 to 2015 it had “lost it moorings.”

“It was set up for particular purposes but just went haywire, so duplication was happening at UTT and that couldn’t be allowed to continue. Therefore, we embarked on a review and adjustment of UTT’s programmes, resulting in termination of 30 posts. And there’s a big hue and cry about that,” she said.

“But here’s why the hue and cry is hypocritical: the PP/UNC engaged in rampant firing of professors and other UTT staff over 2011 to 2012, firing 85 people - so apparently the 85 fired is less than the 30 recently terminated. The PP’s 85 firings left students in a quandary, but did you hear anything about that then?”

She said the Education Ministry review of UTT’s programmes showed there were two people to a programme, “and we’re supposed to keep these 30 people and continue paying them, even though UWI is offering the same programme?

We’d be throwing good money after bad. But when the PP/UNC fires 85 UTT staffers, there was no problem with that.”

West said there’s been a lot of “talk”on retrenchment and mass firings”, but, “the unemployment rate for 2017 first quarter was 4.5 per cent, comparing favourably with times of plenty 2011- 2015. We’ve maintained low unemployment rates with a mix of social, economic and labour policies which place people and jobs first and we didn’t fire public servants.”She said also noted that 5, 275 jobs were created via the 2017 Public Sector Investment Programme.

West also said while Government is hoping for “something to happen” concerning the Clico collapse issue, the matter is out of Government’s hands. A report on the issue is with the DPP, she added.

West denied Opposition claims the economy has “crashed”, adding there was strong basis that things were improving, including higher oil prices and an April IMF report noting modest growth for T&T.

The Senate meets tomorrow to begin debate on the Insurance bill, which seeks to reform and tighten regulation of the insurance sector.

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