FORMER agriculture minister Devant Maharaj who is president of the Sanctuary Trade Union has written to the the president of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) Prof Sarim Al-Zubaidy warning that if lecturers who received dismissal letters last Friday are not reinstated by 3 pm today, the lecturers will institute legal proceedings against the university.
Maharaj’s letter to the university came as the Education Ministry has decided to step back from publicly commenting on the recent dismissal of the lecturers. Education Minister Anthony Garcia had said that Cabinet would review the May 11 termination of 30 lecturers as well as other staff identified for retrenchment.
In a statement issued several hours after Cabinet met yesterday Thursday, the ministry said a decision had been taken for the management of UTT to explain to the public, the process undertaken to arrive at the decision to dismiss staff. “While the Cabinet is aware and understands the need for this move, the UTT must be given the opportunity to fully elaborate on the process that was followed to the public,” a release from the ministry stated.
The ministry added that termination letters already issued to academic staff, “will stand as valid”, while Cabinet has left it up to UTT to decide when it will continue with the process of issuing of the remaining termination letters.
Further, the ministry said it has now sufficiently ventilated, mediated and addressed concerns of all parties involved and will be stepping out of the day-to-day involvement in this issue. The ministry said, like Cabinet, it believes the UTT is capable of handling this process and looks forward to the university strengthening its human resources while maintaining service excellence to its major stakeholder – students.
Maharaj emailed a copy of the letter which he sent to Prof Al-Zubaidy. He claimed that there was no consistent criteria or rationale used to select the people who received dismissal letters. He called the dismissal “arbitrary, lacking in process, lacking in transparency and without a clearly defined criteria.
Further, natural justice principles and/or principles of good industrial relations were not afforded to these lecturers particularly since they were not provided with any opportunity to be heard, Maharaj said in the letter. His trade union called on UTT to revoke the letters of dismissal, immediately reinstate the dismissed employees and cease any action aimed at dismissal of employees pending discussion with the employees and their trade union representative.
“Should you fail to take the necessary steps and/or fail to respond favourably by 3 pm on Friday 18th May 2018, the affected employees will resort to the Courts to enforce their rights against UTT without any further notification to you,” Maharaj stated.