Garcia: 300-plus facing UTT axe

An estimated 300-plus workers are being cut from the University of Trinidad and Tobago. While 57 academic staffers have so far received dismissal letters, an additional 287 non-academic staff members are also expected to be dismissed, Education Minister Anthony Garcia confirmed yesterday.

Garcia was replying to queries in the Senate from UNC Senator Wade Mark on UTT job cuts.

Garcia’s figures signalled an estimated total of 346 staffers will be losing jobs.

Garcia said, “Information from UTT states 59 academic staff are to be dismissed, 57 of which already received dismissal letters. In addition, 287 non-academic staff are expected to be dismissed. Discussions are still ongoing between the Oilfield Workers’ Trade union (OWTU) and the UTT,” Garcia said.

He was also asked about the request for information by the union regarding the 287 to be retrenched.

“As part of the negotiating process, the union has been requesting certain information - bits of information - that has been provided to them. However, I’ve facilitated three meetings in an effort to bring both parties together and at the last meeting I held between the union and UTT, the union had requested some additional bits of information.

“The UTT is now treating with that information and I’ve been assured that in the not-too-distant future that information will be relayed to the union.”

Mark expressed concern at the impact retrenchment of 300-plus workers would have on UTT’s quality of education.

On further Opposition questions about whether the Labour Ministry had been formally notified of the retrenchment exercise - and what assistance is being provided by the ministry to retrenched workers -, Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste- Primus said: “Information from UTT states that with regards to the academic staff, they’re not deemed to be workers under the (governing) act which requires reporting to the ministry.”

The law mandates that job cuts over five must be reported by employers to the ministry.

Mark protested Baptiste-Primus’ information, saying the academic staffers are citizens.

On assistance for workers, Baptiste-Primus added, “We have a programme in our 10-point plan - the National Employment Service - where employers register with us and unemployed/retrenched people are invited to register with the Labour Ministry.

“We’ve also opened a National Retrenchment Register to capture more accurately the number of people retrenched in T&T, as the act states an employer is only required to inform the Labour Minister if that employer is retrenching five or more workers. Under five there’s no requirement.

“So we invite those retrenched to visit our offices and they’ll be given the necessary assistance and guidance where possible.”

Prior to the Senate yesterday, Sanctuary Workers’ Union president Devant Maharaj told T&T Guardian that last Friday, UTT’s president refused to “meet and treat with the wrongful dismissal of the UTT lecturers.”

The union has lodged a formal trade dispute with the Ministry of Labour on the matter.

Maharaj added, “The minister, in accordance with Section 51 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act and Regulations, now has 14 days in which to respond to the union. SWU notes that despite the very public disquiet about the callous and wrongful termination of the UTT lecturers, the Minister of Labour hasn’t been heard on the issue.

“The dismissals of the UTT lecturers were harsh, oppressive and contrary to the principles and practice of good industrial relations and unbecoming for an institution that teaches international best practices in management.”

Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Gail Alexander)

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