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Fired UTT lecturers meet EOC

Published: 
Thursday, August 9, 2018

Former lecturers from the University of T&T met with officials of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) yesterday to discuss alleged discrimination after being fired during a restructuring exercise at the cash-strapped university last May.

The lecturers led by Dr Kumar Mahabir are also in the process of taking legal action claiming they were wrongfully and arbitrarily fired from the Centre for Education Programmes (CEP) as part of the University’s stated “restructuring exercise.”

The meeting took place at the EOC’s headquarters . Each of the lecturers were interviewed and presented a case claiming due process was not followed.

In an interview yesterday, Dr Mahabir said as the only qualified anthropologist with a doctoral degree from the University of Florida, he could have been relocated to the Academy for Arts, Letters, Culture and Public Affairs, instead of being fired.

“The dismissal was too abrupt. Done without consultation, and any prior oral or written notice. My attorney, Roshni Balkaran, described this sudden dismissal as “an ambush. As part of the due process procedure, the UTT also failed to provide evidence that we could not have been redeployed in another programme in the same university before dismissal,” Mahabir said.

He also added that UTT breached its own human resources policy outlined in its official published Handbook.

“In Policy Ref. No. HR 17, Clause v, the Separation Policy states: ‘Where it is determined that the university is overstaffed in any area of its operations and the surplus staff cannot be reasonably employed in another area, the university will consider retrenchment as a final option,’” Mahabir said.

He said universal industrial relations procedures dictate that dismissals should be done only after consultation with the affected employee, prior notice of dismissal, presentation of evidence by the employer, an opportunity for the employee to respond, representation of the employee by an attorney, notice of dismissal, a right to appeal, and a right to judicial review.”

“To deny due process to a dismissed employee is to violate and deprive him of his procedural, substantive and constitutional rights especially from a public institution like the UTT,” Mahabir said.

He also added that the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act No. 32 of 1985 of T&T stipulates that “prior to the giving of formal notice in writing of retrenchment,” (the employer) is expected “to enter into consultation” with the affected employees or their representative union “with a view to exploring the possibility of averting, reducing or mitigating the effects of the proposed retrenchment.”

Mahabir said they hoped that the EOC will bring redress to them adding that they also planned to initiate a civil lawsuit against UTT in the near future.

Contacted for comment, deputy chairman of the UTT’s Board of Governors Professor Clement Imbert said the dismissed workers got 45 days notice.

He also said the UTT had no money and could not absorb any of the workers into any other programme.

“We had no money to keep them. We started with the academics classes . We had to rationalise and we just could not absorb anybody because the university just does not have money,” Imbert said.

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