Chair of SINU: University seriously consider withdrawing recognition of the two associations
The two associations representing the academic and non-academic staff of the Solomon Islands National University have written to the Chairman of SINU Hon Culwick Togamana that unless he sacks the Vice Chancellor by Thursday they will go on strike by Friday this week.
In a strongly worded letter, the associations LASINU (Lecturers Association of SINU) and SINUGSA (SINU General Staff Association) told the chairman and Minister of Environment Dr Togamana yesterday that he must fire Dr. Ganesh Chand or they will withdraw their service by Friday, which is the expiry date of their 7-days notice they issued last Thursday.
Togamana and the SINU associations have been exchanging letters since the beginning of this year. The associations had earlier demanded that the SINU Council establish an independent committee to investigate allegations they had put forward to the Council against the VC. The allegations against the VC include abuse of power, nepotism, corruption and mismanagement.
Chairman Togamana then wrote back to the associations expressing his reluctance to initiate an independent committee to conduct the investigation and instead requested that they provide evidence for the allegations leveled against the VC.
Amongst the allegations the associations claim that staff’s email has been spied on. They alleged that whilst there was no direct mention of the VC’s involvement to spy on the staff emails, it can be constructed that the orders to conduct the exercise must be approved by those in higher office at SINU and this must be none other than the VC.
The unions also claimed that there is abuse of recruitment especially on conflict of interest. In one case, the unions claimed that the internal auditor was found to submit a forged letter with his application for the job. When cross-checked, the Fiji National University reviewed the reference and cross checked with their records and they could not confirm the authenticity of the references that the Fijian sent with his application. There were also other allegations that the VC recruited expats mostly Fijians to jobs that should be held by locals. Printing costs is another issue, where huge amounts of money were sent to a printer and more printing job is lined up for the Fijian company. The staff also questioned why only one newspaper in Fiji was used to advertise for jobs at SINU?
In their reply to chairman Togamana who had written to the unions demanding that they follow the process and allow natural justice to take its course, the SINU workers said they don’t accept the suggestion.
Instead they state that members of both unions are resolute and demand the termination of the VC in seven days (due this Thursday) failure to do will result in their members withdrawing their services from the university.
The associations stated in their letter that they had also submitted strong evidence against the VC therefore he must go.
The members were also appalled by the chairman’s inability to foresee the matters especially setting up the independent investigation into the allegations of the VC.
They state: “The significance of having an independent committee to conduct the investigation is to give fairness and natural justice to everyone implicated including the VC. Instead you refused to all for the process,” the letter to the chairman, read.
A spokesman for SINU associations told SBMOnline that they are prepared to go on strike as of Friday.
He said a general meeting would be called on Thursday for all workers of the university before the strike goes ahead on Friday.
“Surely we will go on strike and there’s no room for negotiation as we have only two options. One is the VC be sacked or we take the second option that is to go on strike,” the spokesman stated.
SINU COUNCIL’S REPLY
Togamana said tonight that in view of this new wave of demands and ultimatums, the Council had sought the legality of the two associations from the Registrar General’s Office for compliance to the Trade Unions Act, with the question of whether they are registered unions.
“The Registrar General’s Office informed Council by a letter of confirmation, that they have no record of the two associations as registered unions. On 30th June 2020, the Chair of Council has written to the two associations advising them of the letter of confirmation from the Registrar General’s Office and asking them to provide their “Certificates of Registration” if they disagreed with the Registrar General’s Office letter of confirmation. In this letter, the Chair of Council also indicated that if they fail to prove their legal status as unions representing the SINU staff by Thursday 2nd July 2020, the University will seriously consider withdrawing recognition of the two associations,” Togamana said this afternoon.
“In addition, it is common knowledge now at SINU that there are very serious matters of fraud, abuse of process and compliance that the SINU Management are uncovering through the leadership of the Vice Chancellor, through a series of investigations and internal audits. When one looks at these and the demands by the
two Associations who are being advised by those implicated in these internal audits, one calls into question the genuiness of these demands and ultimatums,” he adds.
He said: “The University feels that the two Associations are acting in bad faith by using militaristic methods to demand the removal of the Vice Chancellor, instead of following the grievance policy of the University to deal with matters of this nature,” he said.