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Strikes update - May 2022

Image text reads "Strikes Update: May 2022

As many of you may be aware, the College sent 16 staff members redundancy notices at 7:08PM on Friday 8th April, just before Easter closure. This was in the context of dispute resolution between the College and Goldsmiths UCU (the Universities and Colleges Union which represent most academic staff) still ongoing to the point that the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), a public body that aid in dispute resolution are now facilitating the negotiations. Much has been done to pressure the College into getting the unnecessary redundancies off the table, including extensive strike action and the current assessment and marking boycott this year as well as years of resistance to previous iterations of austerity measures such as Evolving Goldsmiths. Student solidarity and organising has been tireless throughout from direct action to fees and rent striking.

16 notices going out despite the College’s initial claim that over 50 jobs need to be deleted to secure its financial position make clearer than ever that their financial argument does not hold up. This decrease in number in real terms, due to the continuous trajectory of precarious, downsized and casualised work amount to 5 full-time roles. Such a reduction despite continuous vagueness about the actual numbers attest to the fact that the collective resistance and union organising do work and without it, the situation would have looked a lot worse for the Goldsmiths community and a lot sooner but the picture still remains grim.

Of those targeted, 7 Professional Services staff members are included. Professional Services staff undertake some of the most vital aspects of work at the College, including the entirety of departmental administration. From timetabling to processing extensions and other vital areas of student support, these are roles that require massive institutional knowledge and experience and we are set to lose some staff members in some cases who have 22 years of experience in providing dedicated service to students. These are destructive consequences to work that the past few, unprecedented years have repeatedly proven is the backbone of what makes our education possible.

Of the academic staff affected, the situation is equally as destructive as included are the entire team convening the History Foundation year, the only one of its kind in London and a programme that allows students, who are often working-class and marginalised out of higher education a chance at a degree which under the Tory proposals to exclude students without certain GCSE results from accessing student finance and increases to student finance repayment threshold all contributing to a wider classist and elitist attack on marginalised pupils from entering academia. While as a result of much public outcry, not included in this round of redundancies are the convenors of the one-of-a-kind Queer History, Black British Literature and Black British History MAs, we can only read this as a surface-level saving face as many other courses and modules integral to a decolonial, liberatory curriculum will effectively be deleted. Included are the entire staff team teaching modern history and contemporary politics of the Middle East in the History department, academics who specialise in Middle Eastern and Arab migrant literature and African migrant literature in the English and Creative Writing department. These are all real fields of decolonial fields of study and their removal contradict the College’s virtue-signalling around equality, diversity and inclusion and decolonising the curriculum. Much of this teaching has already been lost due to many staff members preemptively resigning due to the months and years of job uncertainty and downgrading including the entire Widening Participation team and as GUCU have put it show that senior management obviously do not see striving for equity in education as profitable, and so the teaching of students from working class, Black or migrant backgrounds is not considered by them to be a part of the future ‘strategic direction’ of the College. It is deeply concerning also, that active and visible GUCU members have been targeted as amongst those set to be made redundant include a GUCU co-president, executive committee members and departmental reps. These redundancies, while already indefensible and catastrophic in consequence, would prove to also be punitive and set a dangerous precedent of union-busting in attacking the most vocal activists who in many cases are themselves marginalised, working in some of the most precarious contracts, are predominantly women.

With those made redundant set to lose their jobs in July, there is no telling how massive administration projects such as exam boards at the end of this academic year are set to run even without the assessments and marking boycott that GUCU have voted on. With the vast number of courses and modules set to lose staff, we are also deeply concerned about how this would look for students currently enrolled on these modules during the summer period. As always we encourage you to reach out to the Warden, senior management and Council about these cuts and now also encourage students to get in contact with your department heads, particularly about assessment considerations in light of the current circumstances.

GUCU have also written a statement going into more detail about the redundancies, its consequences and ways they are mobilising and encourage you to read it to find out more. CLICK HERE TO READ

The usual weekly student/staff assemblies will continue from next week. These are spaces where you can hear updates about where things are at with negotiations, what they mean for students and to voice any questions or concerns either directly or anonymously to GUCU and the SU. GUCU are also hoping to restart in-person stalls and gatherings to meet with students and we will advertise details as soon as they are available.