USP staff union files strike mandate

USP staff union general secretary Litiana Waqalevu. Picture: ROHIT DEO

THE University of the South Pacific Staff Union has filed a strike mandate with the Ministry of Employment Opportunities, Productivity and Industrial Relations.

The strike mandate gives a party the ability to enact strike action.

The association filed the strike mandate this week underlining three issues: salary increase, job evaluation and the removal of the assistant Accountant Payroll Officer.

USP Staff Union general secretary Litiana Waqalevu said it had been years since they had been raising those concerns but claims nothing was being done about it.

“Our members are the crucial arm of the university. They look after very important places like enrolments, exams, graduations, open days, etcetera. If we actually get the strike notice, we will aim and target those times,” Mrs Waqalevu said.

She said it had been 24 years since the last full evaluation took place, which was not logical because some evaluators did come to the university but could not complete the evaluation.

“It is a very long time indeed. Last one (evaluation) was done in 1994, implemented in 1995. We have never had across-the-board evaluations since then. We have had in-house evaluations but nothing fair to be assessed.

“We were promised that it was going to be done in 2016. Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) was involved in 2016. We had everything arranged, last minute USP ditched out because they did not have things prepared for PWC.

“USP arranged for a consultant from Australia. She came over in late 2017 and into this year. She was so reluctant to work with us so that the evaluation would take place before June 30 (2018).

“We had two weeks of internal training with those evaluators. Everything was taking shape until mid-June (2018) when we were told the consultant had been advised to stop everything until the university gets back to them.”

On the assistant accountant payroll officer’s transfer, Mrs Waqalevu said he had been with the university for more than 10-plus years and he had been the payroll officer for the Senior staff, and then all of a sudden there was a decision “made overnight” that he move out to become the assistant accountant in a different area, which is the Receivables department.

She said the question they had raised with USP was the reasons behind the assistant accountant payroll officer’s removal.

Apart from this, the staff union is concerned that the university has not been able to adhere to its 2018 Annual Plan, which outlines benefits for its staff.

Page 13 of the Annual Plan 2018 under the sub-heading ‘Our Values’, the USP and the USP Staff Union agreed to its “commitment and loyalty to staff and students to the institution and the region”.

It also agreed to “investments in staff, rewarding staff excellence and empowerment of all the University of South Pacific teams”.

In his report in the Annual Plan 2018, USP vice chancellor Professor Rajesh Chandra said “…the five major areas in which HR section will focus on in 2018 and beyond: enhance talent management; improve leadership management; automation of HR services; improvement in staff satisfaction; creating a healthy, happy and high performing work environment; and to be an employer of choice”.

Questions on these issues have been sent to Prof Chandra and Minister for Employment Opportunities, Productivity and Industrial Relations Jone Usamate.

The staff union has 330 members, comprising intermediate, junior and hourly-paid staff.

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