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.
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).
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.
“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.
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.”