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Staff wary as UTT faces cuts

Published: 
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Professor Clement Imbert

A major downsizing exercise hovers over the University of T&T (UTT), with the Business Development and Marketing Unit (BDMU) possibly facing disbandment.

The T&T Guardian understands staff from the unit were called to a meeting Monday at UTT’s Chaguanas campus by new president, Professor Sarim N. Al-Zubaidy to discuss the way forward. Staff was told that their head, BDMU vice president Navneet Boodhai was no longer there and UTT was “pending restructuring.” The unit, the T&T WGuardian understands, was recently identified as not “fitting in anywhere on its organisational structure.”

“We were told that we will be reporting directly to the president in the interim,” a staff member said.

Another employee said after the meeting they were very “unsettled.”

“We were told that changes are coming and that some of us may not like it and some of us may embrace it. We are very concerned about our job security.”

The BDMU was established to promote areas of collaboration between industry and university, analysis of the labour market to guide programme development, supporting local and foreign investors, bridging the gaps between funding and research, promoting entrepreneurial and career development to the UTT students, and the creation of an international relations office to extend the university’s arms globally.

Contacted on the issue, Boodhai confirmed he resigned one week ago. Asked if he knew about plans to disband the unit, Boodhai replied: “No. I’m really not sure what is happening with the unit.”

UTT sources said job cuts are expected to take place within both corporate and academics areas. Corporate staff members are represented by the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU).

“On the ground, there is word that they are trying to downsize staff as best as they can to facilitate the move to the UTT’s main campus at the Wallerfield E-Tech Park. Even the union say they are in the dark,” one staff member, who wished not to be identified for fear of victimisation, said.

Contacted on the move, deputy chairman of UTT’s Board of Governors, Professor Clement Imbert, said there is a lot of speculation about the future, but admitted “hard decisions” will have to be made.

“Reason being, we have a budget, the budget is much less than what we had spent. We had some savings in the last financial year and that savings ran out. We got a similar budget this year and there is no way we can maintain what we have now with that budget,” Imbert said.

With respect to job cuts, Imbert said: “How we deal with staffing is that we will have to talk to the union. We are going to have to decide what to do at UTT to survive.

There are several things that we will definitely have to cut down on. We have contracts that may not be renewed, we have to look at merges…things like that…but no letters have been sent out.”

Minister of Education Anthony Garcia meanwhile said he is frequently in contact with UTT chairman Professor Kenneth Julien and added that if job cuts are imminent he was not told or is yet to be informed.

“That is something I am not aware but I will have to look into that,” Garcia said.