USP staff vote in favour of strike action over ‘just and fair’ pay rise

Frustrated employees of the University of the South Pacific dressed in black, holding placards calling for “fair pay” and for Professor Pal Ahluwalia to resign late last month. Picture: AUSPS/RNZ Pacific




THE Association of University of the South Pacific Staff (AUSPS) is waiting for the Ministry of Labour’s advice on their next course of action.

Last week members of the AUSPS and USP Staff Union held a secret ballot whereby 63 per cent voted in favour of strike action at the institution.

In an interview with Radio New Zealand (RNZ) AUSPS general secretary Rosalia Fatiaki said, “We have not received a confirmation from (the ministry), they have acknowledged the receipt of the secret ballot results and they are yet to formally provide us that confirmation. So we are awaiting for that and we are expecting that to come through today (Friday)”.

Ms Fatiaki said staff missed out on salary adjustments in 2019 and 2022, adding that the union had not pushed USP at the time to adjust the salaries because they were told the university was in a financial crisis.

A 2 per cent pay rise was given to staff by the university in October 2022, January 2023 and January this year.

However Ms Fatiaki said it was “way below” the increase needed to match the cost of living in Fiji and unions had not been consulted.

Ms Fatiaki said the management had refused to negotiate salary adjustment and “that is what the secret ballot was for”.

The union is demanding that the university be fair and just to staff by looking and negotiating salary adjustments with them.

AUSPS general-secretary Rosalia Fatiaki . . . USP pay rise “way below” the increase needed to match the cost of living in Fiji and unions were not consulted. Picture: AUSPS/FB

According to Ms Fatiaki USP used to contribute an additional 2 per cent above the national minimum for its superannuation contribution to senior staff but this was reduced to the minimum during the covid-19 pandemic and had not returned which the union was demanding.

She said despite more students being on the USP roll the university had not engaged with the union but had cited financial reasons for withholding pay.

Ms Fatiaki said she hoped vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia would “come to the table” and take staff grievances seriously.

She told RNZ it was time for USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia to talk to the members and deal with the issues.

While the staff dissatisfaction with Prof Ahluwalia was not a reason for the strike, Ms Fatiaki said union members had expressed concerns about the vice-chancellor’s leadership because of “numerous unresolved issues”.

“We (are giving management) one more chance to come to the table and in good faith, let’s look at this. Hopefully we are able to resolve the issues that led us to take this action. By next week we expect a response,” Ms Rosalia said.



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