Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor & President stresses a point during the Staff Forum.
The first Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Forum for 2019 held at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus on 25 April was one of the best attended forums.
Also in attendance was Mr Winston Thompson, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council and members of the Senior Management Team (SMT).
In his opening remarks, Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor & President welcomed the opportunity to directly meet with staff and emphasised his open-door policy.
Staff came in numbers to attend the first Forum of the year.
He confirmed that there is regular reporting by the VC&P to Council and its committees, member countries and development partners and his monthly vlogs to update staff and students on recent developments.
Staff were informed that decisions by the University’s Management are made in strict compliance to policies and procedures and that staff now have online access to SMT decisions made in 2019 to raise awareness of management decisions.
With regards to Job Evaluation, Professor Pal expressed reservation at the name of the staff category known as Intermediate & Junior or I&J, instead preferring the two broad categories of academic and professional staff.
He reiterated the offer made verbally to “I&J” staff following the Laucala graduation in March 2019 of a one-off 5 per cent payout backdated to 2017. In addition, USP will match FNU salary where it is higher than USP for the same job class but will not do any extra loading where a USP salary is higher than FNU. He also urged staff to work with their Union on accepting the offer.
As well, Professor Ahluwalia expressed concern over the low response to the 2017 VOICE Survey saying that a similar one to test staff climate will be done later this year.
According to Professor Pal, improvements have been incorporated to the revised Strategic Plan following the significant feedback from staff and students during the consultation period facilitated through the MOODLE platform. The revised SP will be taken to Council at its meeting on 16 and 17 May 2019.
With regards to HR developments, he stated that the appointment of an Executive Director HR will soon be made.
“Also, to improve HR service delivery, a HR Business Partners model will be rolled out by the end of April allocating HR staff to specific Faculties and sections to deal with recruitment backlogs and to progress recruitment for all outstanding and upcoming vacancies in all categories of staff,” he noted.
He added that the HR function will remain centralised but allocated staff will spend significant time with their assigned offices and the intention is to clear backlogs and speed up recruitments.
Professor Ahluwalia also highlighted avenues to raise staff grievances; Prevention of bullying, sexual harassment; Whistleblowing Policy; Campus Security for staff and students; High Level Consultation; International research collaboration; and UNDP partnership.
Issues raised at the Forum, among others, included:
• A general appreciation for the frank update from the VC&P.
• Staff climate and the reason for the low response to the VOICE Survey
• Need for professional mediators during conflict resolution;
• Career pathways and support for Professional staff;
• Short term contracts and IT Re-Engineering Project;
• Retirement age;
• High number of vacant academic positions; and
• Workplace bullying.
An Action Plan to address issues raised will be drawn up and reported to the next Staff Forum as well as through regular reporting avenues. The second Staff Forum will be held in Semester 2.
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