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New UniFiji Row Erupts

New UniFiji Row Erupts
August 29
12:23 2018

 

A serious employment row that could threaten the future stability of the University of Fiji has erupted.

The row is over a new directive that all staff members including senior academics are required to clock in the morning when they report to work and clock out in the afternoon when they finish work.

Some senior academics said this would be the first university to do it. They said it restricted the freedom of movement of academics and would discourage them to work irregular hours. They are so incensed that they have suggested strike action to force the university to change its decision.

This new row continues the governance challenges afflicting the university and the spotlight is turned on university chair, Anil Tikaram. The controversial directive had come out after  the Acting Vice Chancellor, Professor Narendra Reddy, went on leave (which he had planned for some time).

The normal thing would be for another academic at professorial level to act as VC. But Mr Tikaram has assumed the role when there are a lot of experienced high level academics at the university who know how the academic system should work, some academics say.

Instead, without the consultation of the Senate, which is the academic authority of the university, the Chair of council and Pro-chancellor Anil Tikaram allegedly appointed himself the VC. That means he has 3 positions at the same time – Chair of Council, Pro-chancellor and Vice Chancellor.

The academics say this indicates a conflict of interest as he cannot be all three at the same time. This was done for one month. It was also not approved by the council of the university.

Questions were sent to Mr Tikarama earlier in the day for comments via email, but there was no response when this edition went to press.

Mr Tikaram has no established background as an academic and is only at Saweni Campus two days a week. The VC should be on campus for the whole time as there are a lot of academic and administrative matters to deal with if the university is to run successfully on a day to day basis.

The academic working hours policy is yet to be discussed by the academic staff at the university as it has employment and legal implications. However, the directive has been given by the human resources manager that it should be implemented immediately and academic staff have been instructed to register for bio-metrics for clocking in and out. Only the university council, not the human resources manager can decide on such policies and council has not been given the opportunity.

Academic staff are up in arms about this directive and have resolved to take matters further if the university policies are flouted by senior management.

The next university council meeting is on September 22, when the Fiji Higher Education Commission will address the council members on their concerns on other issues regarding the university, including finances and administration.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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