USP union warns of industrial action if fair pay is not approved

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University of the South Pacific Union president Reuben Colata and Professor Biman Prasad
University of the South Pacific Union president Reuben Colata (left) and Fiji's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad . . . engagement encouraged. Image: Fijivillage News

By Iliana Biutu in Suva

University of the South Pacific Union (USPU) president Reuben Colata says industrial action will be the next step if USP does not approve their pay increment being sought.

Colata said they did not know why the university did not want to negotiate a salary increase.

He said the university had about $80 million in savings with another $19 million given by the government this year.

With that amount of money, the university could pay the staff rather than allow the staff to bargain for their salary.

His union is one of two unions representing USP staff.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad, said he encouraged the staff to engage with management — and with the USP Council — to resolve this issue.

Professor Biman said Fiji’s coalition government believed in academic freedom and also valued the freedom of workers the country needed.

The USP Council meeting is still underway at the USP Japan ICT Centre and it will continue today.

The USP staff had a silent protest yesterday after their staff paper was not allowed to be included as part of the council’s agenda.

Seeking removal of VC
They are calling for the staff paper to be discussed by the USP Council which includes the issues about the staff pay increment demand.

They are also calling for the removal of the regional institution’s vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia.

The academic staff are represented by the Association of USP Staff (AUSPS) whose president, Elizabeth Read Fong, told FBC News that Professor Ahluwalia’s contract should end by December 31.

She hinted that the vice-chancellor had already turned 65, which is the institution’s retirement age.

“He also turns 65 at the beginning of the year,” she said.

“The university policy is that when you turn 65, you work until December 31st, so there is a post-retirement thing, but he has put that on hold, so one policy applies to everybody.”

Iliana Biutu is a Fiji Village News reporter. Republished with permission.

University of the South Pacific protesting in black
University of the South Pacific staff protesting yesterday in black with placards calling for “fair pay” and for vice-chancellor Professor Ahluwalia to resign. Image: Association of USP Staff (AUSPS)
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