Context on the strikes...
What is this dispute about?
Goldsmiths senior management team (SMT) has stated that it plans to make redundant up to 32 professional services staff and 20 academics in English & Creative Writing and History. Under management’s proposals, these 52 staff would be issued redundancy confirmation letters in the Spring term and leave between April and June 2022. SMT argues that these cuts are necessary to ensure the future of Goldsmiths. However, GUCU argues that these cuts unfairly target front-line staff who are already working above and beyond, while doing little to address the long-term financial problems that Goldsmiths has.
The cuts to professional services staff focus on administrative, student-facing staff in academic departments. SMT wants to make 32 of these staff redundant, and put the remaining staff in a central administrative office to cover all departments. GUCU believes this will lead to a serious worsening of conditions for these staff, who will need to do the same amount of work with much less support, but also have serious negative effects on students, who will struggle even more to access support specific to their programme and department. Forcing this many staff out and doing such a big restructure in the middle of the academic year will cause major disruption to administrative support this year, and the reduced staffing will continue to negatively affect students for years to come.
On the academic side, SMT has decided to make up to 20 staff redundant across English & Creative Writing and History. This is a very large proportion of the staff working in these departments, and threatens the future survival of these subjects at Goldsmiths. These departments have been chosen because SMT argues they have failed to “keep up” with student recruitment targets, using only recruitment numbers during the pandemic. These departments have developed some of the most forward-looking and progressive programs at Goldsmiths, such as the MA programs in Queer History, Black British History, and Black British Literature; all the staff working on these programs have been placed “in scope” of redundancy and are being told they will need to compete with each other over the remaining jobs. Staff leaving the institution in this way means students may not have the dissertation supervisors they need, their work may be marked by staff with different expertise, and continuing students will be left with a department very different from the one they signed up to be part of.
Why is this happening?
SMT have signed a deal with their banking “partners”; in exchange for limited financial support, SMT has committed to cutting staffing by 4 million pounds this year and a further 2 million next year. In other words, if this round of cuts is not stopped, there will likely be even more cuts to come.
This sets a very negative precedent for higher education more generally; allowing banks to decide the future of institutions like Goldsmiths means that there will be much less opportunity for students and staff to influence the kind of education we build together. Instead, as these proposals show, short-term considerations about the “profitability” of different programs and subjects will be prioritised over the concerns of students and staff.
What has happened before?
Last year, GUCU organised an assessment boycott in response to a similar set of proposals, which effectively delayed them for many months. In other words, students and staff have successfully resisted these proposals before.
GUCU and SU officers continue to attend regular meetings with SMT, but management has so far failed to meet our demands for a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, for an alternative plan to reduce the College’s deficit, and for transparency on College finances including the terms of management’s deals with the banks. SMT has insisted these cuts go ahead, despite all the evidence presented by GUCU and SU for the negative effects they will have on students, staff, and the future of Goldsmiths.
This is why GUCU has called for three weeks of strike action, starting the 23rd of November. By taking strong and united action now, we can put pressure on SMT to abandon these harmful proposals, and instead meaningfully speak with students and staff about ways to build a better university.
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