Education Minister Defends Decision to Send Home Academic Staff

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Education Minister Anthony Garcia Tuesday
defended the decision of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) to
send home more than 30 academic staff members, saying that their
retrenchment would not affect the operations of the tertiary institution.

Speaking in the Senate, Garcia said that it became necessary to dismiss
the lecturers because the UTT is overstaffed.

“The University of Trinidad and Tobago is involved in teaching as well as
research so that the computation of individual workloads has to take into
account both teaching and research output.

“After a thorough analysis of the staffing at UTT and the workload of
lecturers those who have been scheduled for termination are surplus to the
requirements of the university to provide the same level and quality of
service and programs that currently obtain,” he told legislators.

“Therefore the termination of those persons will have no impact on the
institution’s ability to deliver its academic programs,” he added.

The lecturers were given letters of termination last Friday, as the
financially-plagued institution officially began a retrenchment exercise.

In the letter dated May 11 and signed by UTT Vice President Human
Resources (Acting) Leah Ramgattie, the lecturers were informed “as you
are aware, UTT is undertaking a restructuring exercise. This has resulted in
your services as Assistant Professor becoming surplus to the requirements
of the university.

“You will not be required to report for duty during the period of notice.
However, your salary and benefits will continue to be paid up to the end of
the notice period.”

The letter issued served as a 45-day notice of the termination of their
respective employment by reason of redundancy. In addition, the
retrenched workers were expected to receive a severance payment based
on the framework outlined in the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits
Act.

The employees were given one week from May 11 to collect their personal
effects from their respective workspaces and until May 18 to return all
university property in their possession.

“The university regrets having to take this course of action, which has
become imperative due to the current financial circumstances,” Ramgattie
added in the letter.

University sources said that at least 125 academic staff members are
expected to be sent home under the re-structuring exercise

Earlier this year, media reports said that at least 287 members of staff,
including academics, were to be retrenched as the university moved to save
at least TT$41.5 million (One TT dollar=US$0,16 cents).

On Monday, two of the affected lecturers, Dr Kumar Mahabir and Solomon
Ragnathsingh, said they were in talks with their lawyers and union
representatives and would be taking legal action if the redundancy letters
are not rescinded. – CMC

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