MSJ Condemns Retrenchment at UTT
The Movement for Social Justice condemns the retrenchment of lecturers at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. It is very clear that there is no credible basis for the retrenchment of most if not all of those who received/were to receive termination letters since:
· The programmes that were being taught by these lecturers had a student enrollment above that which could be deemed “uneconomical”;
· The timing of the termination has left the students in a twilight zone with course work to be marked, research assignments to be supervised and graded and practicums that must be observed/assessed by, now non-existent, lecturers. These students are now unsure about their future
· The selection of the programmes is arbitrary since they are from the Education Centres – that is the former Valsayn and Corinth Teachers’ Colleges – where students are being specifically trained to enter the teaching profession. This implies that UTT”s Board has determined that teacher training is no longer necessary for Trinidad and Tobago – a decision that is not theirs to make.
The UTT is another sad case study of how poor decision-making by politically appointed Boards and/or incompetent managers can end up destroying important institutions in Trinidad and Tobago. The initial goal of the UTT was noble – to create a tertiary institution that engaged in applied teaching and learning in areas that The UWI was not involved in. UTT then took over existing institutions – John Donaldson and San Fernando Technical; the two Teachers’ Colleges and the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Farming (ECIAF).
In the process there was a lot of arbitrary hiring; no proper organization structure; no proper job descriptions; no proper classification of staff – whether academic, administrative or managerial/executive. Different people were being paid different salaries for doing the same work. It was apparent that favouritism and political nepotism were part of the culture of the first years of UTT under the PNM. Enter the UNC and this culture thrived even more – especially at the top levels of the University. Jobs were created for the “boys and girls”. In spite of the efforts by the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union which obtained recognition for UTT administrative workers in October 2013 the UNC controlled Board and management refused to establish a proper organizational structure and job descriptions for the University, and their refusal to settle negotiations resulting in UTT workers still being in receipt of 2008 salaries. It is therefore more than passing strange that there are persons who at the level of the Cabinet were passive in the face of the UTT workers’ suffering to now be championing their grievances.
The intent of both the PNM and UNC was clear – maintain a status quo of arbitrariness as this facilitates the culture of nepotism and trough feeding at the top. That culture has now resulted in decisions such as:
- The hiring of expats at the most senior of Executive positions at a cost above the national norm;
- The retrenchment of lecturers in departments that are fulfilling important roles in the tertiary sector;
- Cutting programmes without any reference to either a national plan for tertiary education or a strategic plan for UTT;
- Cutting costs by attacking the jobs of lecturers and administrative staff before addressing a top heavy management; senior staff and executive salaries and perks; unnecessary rentals and other admin costs;
- Decisions to utilize UTT’s “savings” to finance as a priority the completion of the Tamana Campus before its obligations to students;
- Putting students’ future at risk;
- Victimisation of students who dared to speak out against the University’s decisions;
- Threatening distress to hundreds of administrative and support workers who, if retrenched, face a very bleak future.
The MSJ stands ion solidarity with UTT workers and the lecturers who have been retrenched. They must not pay for the bad decisions of others. The UTT saga demonstrates the absence of real leadership by the country’s parliamentary parties. Neither the PNM nor the UNC has a clear vision for education. Both have messed up UTT and have no moral authority to take the University forward. Neither can honestly claim that they care about the workers or lecturers or students. Trinidad and Tobago we must “change the change”.
Movement for Social Justice