UTT shake up

Thursday, January 9, 2020 - 15:45
Former employees of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) who were promised the 25 per cent in severance benefit payments withheld by the university believe they will face another delay with the resignation of UTT's president, Professor Sarim Al-Zubaidy, and appointment of acting Vice President, corporate operations, Dr Zameer Mohammed.
In a memorandum dated January 2, 2020, Al-Zubaidy made the announcement to staffers.
He said the Board of Governors appointed Mohammed effective January 1, 2020 "as recruitment efforts commence to fill the post."
Mohammed will assume overall responsibility for the delivery of corporate services throughout the University and will report directly to Al-Zubaidy. 
The units listed under corporate operations are: Finance, Human Resources and Administration, Infrastructure and Maintenance, Outreach and Industry Relations and Technology Services.
Mohammed's new assignment, according to Al-Zubaidy is to "be performed without prejudice to his role of assistant Vice President, Outreach and Industry Relations."
"Kindly extend all professional courtesies to Dr. Mohammed as he executes the assigned portfolios, " Al-Zubaidy said.
Guardian Media was told that Al-Zubaidy - subsequent to the memo announcing Mohammed's new appointment - allegedly tendered his resignation for reasons unknown. 
Al-Zubaidy did not say in that memo that he resigned or had intentions of resigning, however, news of his resignation spread among staffers on Wednesday through to Thursday. 
Guardian Media was told that Al-Zubaidy was in office on Thursday and did not utter a word to staff in his office. His three-year contract ends in July this year.
It was also disclosed that Sandra Ganness was appointed Head of Student Support Services.
On September 2, 2019, as the final batch of retrenchment letters was being handed out at the Corinth, San Fernando Technical Institute and the John Donaldson Institute of the UTT, Al-Zubaidy sent out a memorandum to staff introducing the first set of appointments to three senior academic positions
The positions were: Office of Research, Academic and Student Affairs, Proffesor Prakash Persad: Vice President Research, Academic and Student Affairs (Acting); Office of Undergraduate Studies, Dr Stephen Joseph, Assistant Vice President Undergraduate Studies (Acting) and Office of Research, Impact and Postgraduate Studies Professor Marlon Knights, Assistant Vice President Research, Impact and Postgraduate Studies (Acting).
The recent shakeup, however, didn't go well among present and former staffers.
One present member of staff said: "The more things change, the more things remain the same."
A former staffer said he believes the "new developments/appointments seems to be yet another delay as to why we are yet to receive our outstanding tax monies."
Professor Clement Imbert (Emeritus), acting Chairman and Chairman of the Human Resource and Appointments Sub-Committee (HRASC) of the Board, when asked to confirm Al-Zubaidy's resignation and to clarify the reasons behind the new appointments via Whats app messages read them but up to press time did not respond.
In a letter dated December 13, 2019, by UTT's acting president, Professor Prakash Persad, Persad addressed former employees saying that the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) had approved the payment of severance pay in keeping with the provisions of the Income Tax Act.
Persad advised that the exemptions applications were submitted to the BIR on behalf of former employees and following discussions "an approach has been identified whereby following the appropriate approvals from the BIR."
"The University may be in a position to release the monies so withheld in respect of the tax period 2019. Where successful, outstanding disbursements will be credited directly to the individual's account based on the revised severance benefit as communicated to each former employee by letter dated November 28," Persad said in the letter.
He also added that given the above status, individuals should not be attending the office of the BIR to seek tax refunds directly from the Board.
Over 170 former employees who were retrenched in August 2019, sent a legal letter to the university on December 9, 2019, demanding payment and threatening to go to court if they do not get what is owed to them.
Reporter: Rhondor Dowlat