|Volume 52 Number 6, March 26, 2022||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Goldsmiths College UCU and Unison have been taking industrial action (#GoldStrike) to oppose redundancies at Goldsmiths, University of London. According to the University and College Union (UCU), 52 workers are threatened with losing their jobs in a fire-and-rehire "restructuring" programme.
The plan, being pushed by Goldsmiths' authorities - the Senior Management Team headed by Warden Frances Corner - aims to cut staff as part of an agreement with banks to cut £6 million from the college budget over two years. As such, the job losses are the tip of an iceberg and further redundancies are expected.
This year, 20 academic posts in the departments of English & Creative Writing and History are threatened along with 32 professional services employees. UCU explains that this will have serious consequences for the continued existence of courses in those departments. "Academic job losses targeted at the history and creative writing departments threaten teaching in queer and black history," said one lecturer. "Non-academic cuts involve centralising administration; effectively, current staff would have to compete for their posts. Administrative reorganisation by cutting support staff in academic departments will lead to chaos."
UCU point out that a key issue at stake is the influence of banks in higher education. The background, according to the union, is that years of financial mismanagement have left the university with a £12.7m deficit. Goldsmiths UCU says the "recovery plan" is a deal that was struck with Lloyds Bank and NatWest, negotiated by the consultancy firm KPMG, committing to £4 million of staff cuts this year followed by £2 million next year.
"We got the result (86% for strike, 70% turnout)," said Goldsmiths UCU in a Twitter post following the ballot. "This is a dispute of national significance: we can't allow banks (@LloydsBank and @NatWestGroup) to dictate job cuts."
"If these cuts were to be carried out, they would cause administrative chaos, undermine Goldsmiths' critical humanities provision, and do little to put the College on a secure financial footing," said UCU, while Unison said: "The branch remains convinced that our position - that no compulsory redundancies are necessary, and that the pay of affected staff should be protected - is reasonable and achievable in the current circumstances."
As is now the norm in the sector, much teaching is carried out by low-paid and casualised staff who have borne the brunt of cuts over the last two years. One associate lecturer tweeted on "Justice for Workers [Goldsmiths]" (@CleanersFor): "As a casualised associate lecturer [AL] I get paid £6,314.24 for the year. This is one of the better casualised gigs I've had. 40% of teaching at Goldsmiths is done by ALs. 5% of the total budget is paid on ALs." It has not escaped notice of the striking workers that, in contrast, the Warden enjoys a salary of over £200,000.
In the latest round of action, UCU members struck for ten out of twenty working days in February, and so far, four in March. Unison members struck from March 2-4.
Goldsmiths UCU has launched a global academic boycott of the college as part of their action and a number of external examiners have resigned in solidarity. The union is asking staff and the wider academic community to refuse to: speak at events that do not directly contribute to core teaching duties; participate in certain partnership enterprises with Goldsmiths; write for any academic journal edited at or produced by Goldsmiths; and other such measures. UCU is also urging all external speakers invited to participate in events at Goldsmiths to refuse to collaborate with the institution.
Due to continued management rejection of all counterproposals and the very short timescale for the redundancies, Goldsmiths UCU announced new strike dates of March 16-18 and 21-25. They are also initiating a marking boycott from the end of the spring term and are reballoting for further industrial action.
There is a mood of unity and militancy predominant amongst staff and students, and the picket lines have been vibrant. They are determined that the GoldStrike will succeed in its aims, and Workers' Weekly calls on its readers to give it every support.
More news about the dispute can be found here: https://goldsmithsucu.org./#news
Details of the Goldsmiths strike fund can be found here: https://goldsmithsucu.org/2021/10/19/gucu-strike-fund/