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

University of the South Pacific
University of the South Pacific's Laucala campus . . . staff told the institution is in a "financial crisis". Image: USP/FB

By Caleb Fotheringham, RNZ Pacific journalist

A secret ballot by members of the Association of University of the South Pacific Staff (AUSPS) and USP Staff Union have voted in favour of strike action at the institution.

Unofficial results in the poll last Wednesday showed 63 percent in favour, above the needed majority threshold.

AUSPS general secretary Rosalia Fatiaki said staff missed out on salary adjustments in 2019 and 2022.

Fatiaki said the union had not pushed USP at the time to adjust the salaries because they were told the university was in a financial crisis.

The regional university gave staff a two percent pay rise in October 2022, January 2023, and January this year.

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

“The management has refused to negotiate salary adjustment and that is what the secret ballot was for,” she said.

USP not engaged
“We now demand that the university be just and fair to staff by looking and negotiating salary adjustments with the union.”

Fatiaki said USP used to contribute an additional two percent 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 USP had not engaged with the union but had cited financial reasons for withholding pay.

University of the South Pacific (USP) vice-chancellor and president, professor Pal Ahluwalia.
USP’s vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia . . . both campus unions hope he will “come to the table”. Image: USP

Fatiaki said this was despite more students being on the USP roll.

She said the union was now waiting on Fiji’s Labour Ministry to advise the on next course of action.

“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).”

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

‘Going round and round’
“We are going round and round and round,” she said.

“Rather than [Professor Ahluwalia] coming to tell us ‘no we can’t, we will not [meet the unions demands]’, he’s sending the representatives to come and talk to us and then they go [and] back to him.

“Now it’s time for him to come to the table and deal with the issues.”

She said staff dissatisfaction with Professor Ahluwalia was not a reason for the strike.

However, she said union members had expressed concerns about the vice-chancellor’s leadership because of “numerous unresolved issues”.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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