Q. What is a strike?
It’s when employees, as a result of unacceptable working conditions, protest by not working in order to put pressure on their employer. In this case, many Goldsmiths lecturers and academics are on strike over issues relating to pay, pensions, inequality, their workload and the casualisation of workers. This action is their leverage to change conditions. It’s hoped this could force the USS trustees (the organisation responsible) back to the negotiating table in order to change the future of education.
Q. What is the Students’ Union position on the strikes?
The SU supports the strike and stands in full solidarity with our lecturers, academics and professional staff who have been forced to take this incredibly difficult but unnecessary step. We agree that engaging in this industrial action, whilst disruptive to students, is the only option left. Read more of what we have to say here.
Q. My class isn’t cancelled and my lecturer/tutor isn’t on strike, should I attend?
This is a personal decision but if your class isn’t cancelled you may want to attend as this will cover important curricula and you may be marked absent. There are plenty of ways of showing solidarity, some of which we have listed here.
Q. How will the strikes affect me?
The strike will last 21 days (including weekends). Not all staff will go on strike, but those who are aren’t legally obliged to inform either the university or you, the students, if they plan to - that’s because part of its nature and purpose is to be as disruptive as possible. As frustrating as it is, this means you may not know in advance whether or not your classes will be going ahead. Despite that, we hope you will bear with us and support the action for this short time. In the long term, the results of this strike action could have a big impact on all of us in the future as some of us may go on to work in universities and become the lecturers of tomorrow. This is not a working environment we wish to inherit for ourselves.
Q. What is the picket line and can I cross it?
A picket line is an area where those who are protesting gather. We’d encourage you to respect the strike by not crossing the picket line until after 1pm each day during this period. If you have scheduled a meeting, perhaps you could delay it until a later time or meet on the picket with a coffee! An empty campus will show Goldsmiths management that we are not accepting this attack on our staff and the UK education system. Please note, the Students’ Union and Library will be open as normal. Whilst we encourage you to stand on the picket line with us, we recognise that activity other than teaching takes place on campus so you can still access these areas: Wellbeing Services, Counselling, Prayer Room, Disability, Chaplaincy, Student Services, Quiet Room and Independent Practice areas such as studios, library, labs and workshops.
Can I get compensation?
While compensation may be available, you will need to make a complaint on an individual basis. Your compensation will also depend on what your department has done in order to reduce the effect of the missed teaching. It is better to put in a complaint after the industrial action as this means you can include everything in your claim. We’d also encourage you to keep a disruption diary which outlines how the strike has disrupted you (think dates, times etc). As a current student, you will have three months from the end of the strike to make a complaint. Keep an eye on this page as we find out more about claiming compensation.
Q. Would it be wise for me to withhold my tuition fees from the university?
At this point we would advise against withdrawal or withholding of tuition fees. Legally and contractually this puts you as a student in a very precarious and unsafe situation - technically if you don't pay your fees the university can withdraw you from being a student and you lose your student status.
Q. I'm an international student and am worried about how this will affect me specifically?
We totally appreciate that for international students the disruption the strike will cause is heightened. We have assurances from the college that they will do everything they can to ensure international students will not be adversely punished by the disruption. Our recommendation would be that unless your class is cancelled due to strike action and this has been communicated by your department staff, that you attend. This is especially important given attendance is linked to visa requirements and status. Not all students will be closely familiar with strikes or industrial action and we will endeavour to do what we can to help explain them as accessible as possible. As a student you have a right to support and stand in solidarity with staff members and join them on the picket line, but there are other ways you can show solidarity.
Q. I have exams to study for – where can I go?
It’s likely the Library and Students’ Union building will be a lot busier than usual – although you will still be able to access the prayer room and wellbeing room in the university, along with the quiet space and Liberation Room in the Students’ Union.
Q. Are lecturers paid on strike days anyway?
No, the university will not pay lecturers when they are on strike. For each day they’re on strike, they will lose a day’s pay. So as the strike is for eight days, they will lose eight days pay.
Q. What happens if I have an assessment?
The college have indicated that if course content is missed because it falls on strike days and is not rescheduled this would be taken into consideration in time for assessments. The guiding principle will be that students shouldn't be assessed on content they weren't taught. If your assessment falls within the period of the strike and therefore is cancelled, your department will notify you. For specific questions about assessments we would suggest you contact your department directly (most departments can be contacted by firstname.lastname@example.org e.g. email@example.com). You could also contact your UCU Department Reps if you have specific questions about your department and how the strike will impact your classes.
Q. Instead of seeking compensation, couldn’t I just withdraw my fees or not pay the next instalment?
We wouldn’t advise doing this as the college would have a legal right to withdraw you from your studies as a result. We wouldn’t want to encourage putting any student at risk of this. The best course of action is seeking compensation through the route above. Read more about claiming compensation here.
Q. How do these strikes actually negatively affect the University/SMT? They are saving (and apparently pocketing) £1mil from these strikes, so why would they bend to the demands of striking lecturers as a result?
There’s an enormous amount of reputational damage and it disrupts the Universities ability to run as normal. The key thing is that students don’t blame their striking lecturers - we need you to be angry at SMT, because that’s when the issues will be solved. It’s more of a political struggle in many ways. And striking is the only thing that’s really helped in the past.
Q. What can I do to help?
Have a read of our solidarity guide here with suggestions of what you can do to show your support for the strike. The main thing we’d ask is that you talk to other students about why you support the strike and you write a letter to Frances Corner, the Goldsmiths Warden expressing your support for the action. We will be adding a letter template very shortly!
On Friday 19th November 2021 we held a Strikes Open Meeting with Goldsmiths UCU where we took a number of questions from students. Have a read of those questions and answers via this link.