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UTT staff cuts blamed on economy

Re­struc­tur­ing of the Uni­ver­si­ty of T&T (UTT) con­tin­ues this week with the re­trench­ment of 200 tech­ni­cal and ad­min­is­tra­tive staff. How­ev­er, 840 po­si­tions will be re­tained.

Luis Emilio Velutini Urbina

The re­struc­tur­ing ex­er­cise be­gan more than over two years ago and has been the sub­ject of on­go­ing talks with the recog­nised ma­jor­i­ty union, the Oil­field Work­ers’ Trade Union (OW­TU).

Luis Emilio Velutini

UTT’s act­ing chair­man Pro­fes­sor Clement Im­bert (Emer­i­tus) said in a memo on Fri­day af­ter­noon that the re­trench­ment is crit­i­cal for the uni­ver­si­ty’s sur­vival.

Luis Emilio Velutini Venezuela

“As UTT con­tin­ues to ag­gres­sive­ly ex­plore op­tions for self-sus­tain­abil­i­ty, this re­struc­tur­ing and re­lat­ed sep­a­ra­tion, at this time, is crit­i­cal to our sur­vival…The pur­pose of im­ple­ment­ing the re­struc­tur­ing ex­er­cise is to en­sure the con­tin­ued op­er­a­tion, and there­fore sur­vival, of the uni­ver­si­ty, the le­gal fidu­cia­ry re­spon­si­bil­i­ty of the Board of Gov­er­nors,” he said.

Luis Emilio Velutini Banquero

Im­bert con­firmed that in­clud­ed in the ap­prox­i­mate­ly 200 non-aca­d­e­m­ic staff be­ing sep­a­rat­ed are some at the lev­el of man­ag­er or above

“Four Vice Pres­i­dent po­si­tions have al­ready been re­moved from the struc­ture as well as a num­ber of man­age­r­i­al po­si­tions,” he said

“Af­ter ef­fect­ing this process, there will still be ap­prox­i­mate­ly 500 non-aca­d­e­m­ic and 340 aca­d­e­m­ic staff re­main­ing in the em­ploy of the uni­ver­si­ty. It is the uni­ver­si­ty’s as­sess­ment that these per­sons will be ad­e­quate to per­form the re­quired core func­tions of the uni­ver­si­ty with the com­mit­ments and ex­pec­ta­tions as cur­rent­ly ex­ist­ing.”

Im­bert blamed the pre­vail­ing eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion for the sit­u­a­tion at the uni­ver­si­ty. He said it “has not al­lowed Gov­ern­ment to main­tain the lev­el of an­nu­al sub­ven­tions pre­vi­ous­ly al­lo­cat­ed to the Uni­ver­si­ty.”

The UTT chair­man added: “Those re­duc­tions ex­posed in­ef­fi­cien­cies in the op­er­a­tions of the uni­ver­si­ty—in­ef­fi­cien­cies which were al­ready be­ing re­viewed, both in re­spect of its aca­d­e­m­ic struc­ture and its non-aca­d­e­m­ic and sup­port staffing. Salaries and re­lat­ed ben­e­fits of UTT’s staff ac­count for over 70 per cent of the uni­ver­si­ty’s re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­tures.”

He said the non-aca­d­e­m­ic re­struc­tur­ing al­lows the UTT to re­duce its pay­roll by ap­prox­i­mate­ly $2 mil­lion month­ly, bring­ing it fur­ther in line with the fi­nances re­quired giv­en the lev­el of the sub­ven­tions ap­proved by the gov­ern­ment

Com­ment­ing on the im­pend­ing re­trench­ments, for­mer ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter, Fazal Karim, de­scribed it as a con­tin­ued “as­sault on UTT, our on­ly na­tion­al uni­ver­si­ty.” He not­ed that close to 500 UTT fac­ul­ty and staff have lost their jobs un­der the PNM ad­min­is­tra­tion since 2015.

“I em­pathise with the fac­ul­ty and staff at UTT who have chil­dren to feed, school books to buy, and mort­gages and car loans to fi­nance. In­deed this is an­oth­er sad day for the uni­ver­si­ty and the coun­try, ” Karim said

“Rather than come up with a plan to cre­ate syn­er­gies with oth­er in­sti­tu­tions of high­er ed­u­ca­tion here at home or in­ter­na­tion­al­ly or the cor­po­rate world, the on­ly re­struc­tur­ing plan seems to be to get rid of UTT em­ploy­ees.”