With many UTT staffers yet to purchase school supplies for their children for the upcoming school year, there is panic at the university as 199 permanent employees are expected to receive retrenchment letters next week.
Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union president general Ancel Roget said it was the first wave in a retrenchment exercise for employees in the union’s bargaining unit.
Speaking among workers outside UTT’s San Fernando campus, Roget said the move comes after Education Minister Anthony Garcia abandoned discussions with the union.
He said Garcia had left the university’s management to do the bidding of Finance Minister Colm Imbert to cut staff. He said it was peculiar that no members of top management or corporate staff members were being retrenched.
In May 2018, UTT terminated 59 lecturers, citing that there was a surplus. Garcia then told the Parliament that an additional 287 non-academic staff members were also expected to be dismissed. The university also closed its campus at the Southern Academy for Performing Arts (SAPA) due to a lack of finances.
“What that means is that 199 workers from UTT, next week, will be joining the thousands and thousands of workers who are today without a job. That is the Government’s economic model for running this country; send more workers home,” Roget said.
UTT staff all wore their blue union shirts outside the campus as a sign of solidarity.
With additional taxes over the last few years, they’re worried that their severance would not allow them to survive long.
Roget said that when the technical and administrative support staff are removed, it will affect the economy and the quality of education the students would receive and eventually lead to the demise of UTT.
While 199 is small compared to the 4,700-plus workers that were terminated at Petrotrin, Roget said it adds to a growing figure of retrenchment. He reminded that these employees work to take care of their families so there is a multiplier effect.
In the most recent talks between UTT and OWTU, Roget said his team identified existing vacancies which the workers listed for termination can fill, therefore, reducing the impact of the retrenchment.
However, he said this was rejected as the university continued to favour spending its money to hire expensive consultants at $3,000 per session.
He said the union has a plan, but first called on the Government to “let good sense prevail” and direct UTT’s management and Garcia back to the table. He said there was a need for humanity and sense to the restructuring exercise.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia told Guardian Media on Friday that he was aware of the pending retrenchment at the UTT. The minister said he was unsure when the retrenchment letters would be issued.
Noting that the issue was not new, Garcia recalled that a decision was taken for retrenchment at UTT, however, he refrained from confirming any numbers.
He denied he abandoned any meeting with UTT management and the OWTU. The minister explained that he entered the retrenchment discussions to ensure the Government’s position was represented.