54 People To Lose USP Jobs

There is worry that the university will hit serious financial trouble in May.
06 Mar 2021 09:43
54 People To Lose USP Jobs

Fifty-four staff members of the University of the South Pacific (USP) will be losing their jobs in the coming months.

All in all, more than 108 staff are expected to be losing their jobs, mostly through non-renewal of contracts in the restructure, with the 54 first to go.

Worries are that the regional university could be running into serious financial troubles from May this year.

USP needs $15 million every month for operational costs.

USP Council’s Finance and Investment Committee met this week where the Executive Director Finance Kolinio Boila presented the university’s financial position, which does not look promising at this stage.

The university management has held ongoing consultation with Intermediate and Junior Staff Union executives on job losses and reduced pay structure for their members.

Last year, the Fiji Sun reported job losses through Professor Pal Ahluwalia’s imprudent restructure; however, it was denied by him.

Reports coming out of meetings this week between USP management – Director for People and Workforce Strategy Maritino Nemani, Mr Boila and staff indicate that:

The financial report states that there will be pay cuts across the board from June this year.

This is mainly from no grants received from Fiji. The Fijian Government has made it very clear to the USP Council on multiple occasions, on the need for independent investigation and then the grant will be released.

The council has been dissuaded by Professor Ahluwalia’s open supporters such as Nauru, Tonga, Samoa and individual members against conducting an investigation. The affected staff will have no one to blame apart from the divided council.

Currently 108 people hold non-academic intermediate and junior positions. However, there are only nine positions available for each of the six schools.

All 108 staff have been encouraged to apply for the 54 positions. All new positions are at lower salary scales. Once they fill the first 54 positions, those with contracts would stay on the current pay scale until their current contracts end after which they will go on to a lower scale.

Phase Two

The remaining 54 staff will go into a pool for Phase Two where decisions will be made about whether further support is required. If a person’s contract ends while they are in the pool, that contract will not be renewed.

The positions that will be advertised include, two Administrative Assistants per school and one Head of School Executive Secretary.

The Administrative Assistant positions will be $12,000 lower than their current salaries.

Professor Ahluwalia had made earlier announcements that the university made a profit of $23 million last year.

The university sources and simple business acumen showed that most large, budgeted expenditure items were unspent.

The unspent were travel, per diem, capital projects, deferred maintenance, unpaid bonuses and increments to name a few. Staff annual leave was reduced by 10 days which gave savings of $10m on the books.

Therefore, it was not organic profit to influence bank accounts, but only on paper through non-spending of approved expenditure.

Acting Vice Chancellor Giulio Massaso Paunga also announced increased enrolment this year. This can possibly generate income to delay pay cuts.

However, TSLB data shows that only 1200 students have funded USP through the National Toppers Scheme and Tertiary Education Loans Scheme which is far less than the previous years. The figures used to be more than 3000 in the past.

Fiji Sun research shows that students with 250-plus marks got admission letters from all three universities. It is yet unconfirmed where students have registered and paid for individual units. This will indicate actual increase or decrease in enrolment.

The enrollment target for 2021 is on unchallenging zero percentage increase.

The USP Council is yet to convene to decide on the next Vice Chancellor. The legal advice from Munro Leys has been obtained by the subcommittee.

Questions sent to USP Manager Communications Vineeta Nand remained unanswered when this edition went to press.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce


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