Petrotrin Cries Felt by Fired UTT Lecturers


Submitted by Dr Kumar Mahabir

The heartbreak felt by ex-Petrotrin workers was the same that was experienced by retrenched University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) lecturers who were sent home earlier this year.

On May 11, 2018, the only national university in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) sacked 59 of its lecturers as part of a reported restructuring exercise. Six months later, on November 30, the national oil company was officially closed and all of its 8,000 workers were sent packing.

UTT lecturers were the first casualties of a State entity this year. Petrotrin workers were next, followed by Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) employees. In all three State entities, workers were sacrificed due to poor decisions made by Board members and managers.

Richardson Dhalai of Newsday (1/12/18) reported: “The day began on a sombre note as Petrotrin employees reported for duties for the last time, gloom etched on their faces as they drove hesitantly through the gates leading to the company’s administrative offices. The atmosphere could almost be likened to a wake [vigil] as there was no chatter with Petrotrin’s estate police officers who traditionally manned the gates.”

Dhalai added that “temporary worker Khalifa Phillip could hardly contain her grief and her voice cracked several times while her eyes welled with tears as she said temporary workers had been thrown on the pavement by the company.”

“‘There has been no communication to us on a personal level, not a phone call, not an email, not a letter saying that there will no longer be a company. No respect. We are not being treated with dignity, we have the same bills as everybody. We have rent, we have children to feed, this was our livelihood.

We were told nobody would be thrown in the bamboo, nobody would be on the pavement. That is exactly where I feel I am today. I am one of the 600 who they said would [not] have to suffer. I am one-month shy of 14 years in Petrotrin and I really feel neglected and ignored by the State.’”

Dhalai wrote: “Two other temporary workers who were sitting in the audience echoed Phillips’s words as tears rolled down their faces.”

Loss of a job and a way of life

Sascha Wilson of the Guardian (1/12/18) reported:As workers packed up their things and began leaving the workplace yesterday morning, they expressed sadness and uncertainty over their future.”

A similar article on the same page by Rishi Ragoonath stated, “Wiping his tears as he walked out the gates of Petrotrin after 30 years of service, worker David Jadoonanan lamented, ‘This is so hard. It hurtful. I don’t know what I will do.’ … Several workers, particularly temporary workers, were reduced to tears.”

Ragoonath added: “[Gabriel] O’souna said workers were also concerned about their medical plans and pension plans. Workers, he said, ‘have been sold to hell in a hand basket.’ They claimed that other companies don’t want to hire them because they have been demonised and portrayed as greedy, lazy and unqualified.”

Sandhya Santoo of the Express (1/12/18) reported: “For the workers, many wept openly as memories were shared with co-workers who had become friends and family. Men and women, many of them second and third generation Petrotrin employees, assembled at various locations with their bags of office belongings, ready to head home.”

The sacrifice of becoming a professional

Preparing to become a lecturer was no easy feat for those who were wrongfully retrenched by UTT without a fair, equitable, objective and transparent criteria. The Assistant Professors had studied for about 15 years, having been successful at GCE/CSEC, A’Levels/CAPE, BA/BSc, MA/MSc, and the Ph.D. These academics had spent an enormous amount of dedicated time and money to study, prepare for exams, conduct original research, write a thesis and dissertation, publish in academic journals, and present papers at international conferences.

To which place of employment can they now turn? And in May (when they were fired) when universities hire lecturers long before the academic year begins in September? Administrator Judy Rocke dismissed lecturers in the Bachelor of Education (BEd) Programme who were specialists in teacher training. They taught students to be the primary and secondary school teachers of tomorrow, guiding their minds for the challenges of the changing classroom.

Through experience and studies, they were specialists in teaching Theories in Education, Curriculum Studies, Pedagogy/Teaching Methods, Assessment and Evaluation, Psychology of Learning, Classroom Management, Instructional Design, Research Methods, Written Communication and Contemporary Issues in Education.

In our court case against Rocke and UTT President Sarim Al Zubaidy, our attorneys are contending that, in the circumstances, our dismissal was “unjustified, unlawful, harsh, punitive and oppressive.” In their considered view, our attorneys are also arguing that our arbitrary dismissal was an “abuse of power and/or misfeasance by public officers in a State institution. In Petrotrin and UTT, industrial relations procedures were neglected in the haste to retrench specialists and professionals.”

15 thoughts on “Petrotrin Cries Felt by Fired UTT Lecturers

  1. David – What? If you can find this social justice you refer to from Mr.Mahabir during the UNC/PP government then I’ll agree.

    • @enuff

      The many is robustly advocating for transparency how the decision to retrench some lecturers was done. Aggrieved Barbadians can learn from him et al.

  2. @ David BU

    This is the world as it is. We need to find out:
    Why it is so?
    What is wrong with our economic and social model?
    and more importantly
    Whether this is just a temporary blip on the chart?

    In case you did not notice Barbados is using the same template.
    When we introduce these new social and political institutions we need to ask: Are these implementations sustainable?
    What happens if there is a cut off in the source of financing these fanciful projects?

    Did T& T need a UTT?
    Does Barbados need a U of Barbados?
    On our present trajectory are all these fanciful proposals sustainable?

  3. Are these so-called modernizing constructs adding to the welfare of Barbadians or are they destabilizing our society and economy? They have a close resemblance to a dog chasing its own tail.

  4. The world is in uproar. In years past Bajans went to uni in Canada, the US and the UK. They got a proper education with worthwhile degrees. Since then monkey see and monkey do has caused a huge number of worthless students to get worthless degrees often at public expense in rubbish institutions in places like Grenada, Bdos et al
    Sadly, the intake now in the once great universities once the seats of learning for the world are not much better. University has become a waste of time and money and a means of avoiding actual work for a generation of illiterate layabouts. Entry should be restricted to students studying needed disciplines, medicine, engineering, etc, and the PPE should be banned as a hotbed of future lying Lefty politicians. Those studying law should get NO financial assistance of any kind whatsoever, as they will soon be robbing us all blind.

  5. @ David BU at 2 :47 PM

    The economic system is subject to boom and bust cycles. One cannot therefore introduce additional public services based on the revenue of boom years. T&T should have learnt from past performances that high oil prices are not sustainable. They should have alerted these institutions to the fact that the programs will be subject to the availability of funds.

  6. @ David BU

    Issues such as transparency are really red herrings that distract from the real fundamental problems.

  7. The PM had, earlier this year, offered to sell this refinery to the union, its workers.

    Also he presented other terms such as early retirement. severance and so on.

    Petrotrin was a lost maker for far too long.

    Unions should have 30 years ago abandoned wages demands for ownership of the enterprises where they work.

  8. Just a reminder: another few hundred million $US was added to our debt, borrowing from CAF. That was reported and quietly forgotten a few days ago. It wasn’t in one tranche, it was like you withdrawing money every few days or weeks from the ATM machine. Maybe they also doing that every few months from the H&S Fund and you will kno a few months later, quietly forgotten.

    Dem oil workers getting too much money, unions not good, close down Industrial Court, roll back the gains & progress of NJAC & labor giants like Butler & Rienzi, back to scab labor with Heritage Company, hand over everything to the kind & compassionate 1% who will give all yuh good salaries & benefits and the political puppets will ensure all yuh are well treated, with the Labor Minister feeling compassion for all yuh…

    ….now all yuh bawling when yuh see how dey fool yuh idiots! Yuh eh see nothing as yet, it is the 99% who will cry and bawl more than now when you see the full cost of the PNM Petrotrin monumental tragedy and when you have to pay even more.

    Fisherfolk can’t get regular gas now…. doh worry, the 1% will import fish for all yuh ….that is the agenda, hand over all importing, distributing, and sale of everything to the 1%…..PNM go give all yuh food card and URP jobs!

    But it worth it for all yuh since now them workers not getting higher salaries than we, Roget not driving an expensive car but the politicians and 1% could drive all the big cars and even use yuh forex to import dem big cars to sell to yuh but union leaders must drive long time Cortina car, and now we spending tens of billions in new companies/termination benefits/importing fuel etc versus losing 1 billion per year when Petrotrin had to pay more than that each year to service debt taken out by the PNM Petrotrin Boards! EEEEE good for dem unions & workers! All yuh – the 98% -win! We in that remaining 1% after you minus the 1% oligarchy/plutocracy/kleptocracy and all yuh stupid 98%….doh vex!
    WHO are the people on the AMPLIA Board? Who are senior management there?

    Letter to Retrenched Petrotrin Workers

    Dear Former Workers of Petrotrin,
    The gas flares have gone dark. Those work-worn safety boots have been slipped off aching feet for the last time. A house and home, a wife, a husband and children with their ambitions: an entire life built by sweat, risk and dedication is all thrown into question with one final cheque and a shove out the door……
    ….no one wants to grapple with the reality of successive failed, bloated boards and management teams comprised of political puppets loaded with agendas. The public can’t buss their brains with all the different factors leading to the closure of Petrotrin. It wasn’t the contractor who was the friend of a minister. It wasn’t one government after the next using the company as a political tool. It’s all on you. It’s much easier to simply hang it all around the neck of one villain; you…..

    Ultimately, though, who was running the company? Was it the union or the management and the government? Who approved salary increases? Who signed the cheques? The same government that went to the population with horror stories about a wage bill dragging down the nation created that bloody wage bill!

    None of that matters now, though. The country has had its public execution…..


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