Goldsmiths UCU President’s Report 2019-2020
Since my last report in November 2019 we have been engaged in so many struggles; organising and mobilising the membership for the 22 days of strikes action, opposing Evolving Goldsmiths, from March focusing our energies on pushing SMT to respond adequately to the Covid 19 pandemic whilst simultaneously resisting the Recovery Plan, which proposes wholescale job losses for our casualised colleagues who make up 39% of our teaching staff.
USS and Four Fights campaign November 1920 – March 2020
First of all, thanks to Hannah, Chloe and Tassia who planned and organised the GTVO so skilfully and successfully. The strong picket lines organised by Rachel Moore, who ensured that each space being picketed had music and hot drinks. Many thanks to all who planned the teach outs, which were wide ranging, inclusive and inspirational, involving GUCU members, students and speakers from the Labour movement and a range organisations fighting for social justice.
SMT were not prepared to exempt ALs, technicians and members fractional contracts of less that 0.5 from pay deductions. We requested that deductions for all other colleagues be spread over a 6 month time period to alleviate financial difficulties. SMT agreed to delay until April and May to make deductions.
We asked for a statement from the Warden supporting staff and asking UUK and UCEA return to the negotiating table with UCU. The warden was not able to do this. SMT reassured us that there would be no attendance monitoring for Tier 4 students and Tier 2 staff – this is official policy.
Goldsmiths Unison representatives expressed their support for our action, unfortunately, although the majority of member who responded to the ballot, voted to support strike action, they did not reach 50% threshold.
We were better prepared in many ways than we were in 2018, in that we have the support of Unison, as well as the SU, prior to the action. Due to our previous experience, we were aware that communication is vital to ensure that staff and students are clear about the issues, what a picket line is, how staff and students can be involved.
Our colleagues in post 92 universities have already experienced swingeing staff cuts leading to even more excessive workloads and ever increasing precarity. During our last strikes we worked really successfully with our neighbour, the University of Greenwich.
Goldsmiths AL, GTT and FTC colleagues are fighting a creative and courageous campaign to save their jobs and are leading the HE sector with their bold decision to take unofficial action and withhold grades. We have provided all the support for their demands, even though we cannot ‘sanction’ wild cat action. Slowly but surely we are convincing more and more members that sacking ALs and FTCs will not save one single department from merger or closure. On the contrary, losing up to 39% of the teaching staff will inevitably have a detrimental and harmful impact on the quality of education we offer and our working conditions. Our precarious colloegus have eloquently exposed the recovery plan for what it is – Frances Corner’s plan to destroy all that we value in Goldsmiths, in order to convert it into a bland corporate institution ripe for wholescale privatisation.
VT Assimilation Agreement
A long overdue review of the Assimilation agreement was completed in January 2020. The review was led by our casualisation reps – Roberto Mozzachiodi, Annie Goh (no longer at Goldsmiths, sadly) , Sue Westman and Des Freedman. HR has still not seen fit to publish the report as yet.
Overwhelming opposition to the warden’s plans, from campus unions, DBMs, HoDs, Professors, numerous groups in college, and as far as we are aware, not a single voice of public support for “Evolving Goldsmiths”. There were many collective letters signed by hundreds of staff, the majority of professors, many individual members of staff, by Academic Board and all campus unions expressing opposition to the damaging restructuring of Goldsmiths under the guise of cost saving and improving student experience. In addition, a number of protests attended by many people from all areas of the college. Furthermore, alternative approaches to addressing the challenges were ignore. As a result of this patent lack of consultation , a dispute was declared. Although a ballot was prepared , this could not go ahead due to Covid.
Unsurprisingly FC used the Covid pandemic to launch the ‘recovery plan’ which targeted our precariously employed colleagues for redundancy. As a result of the courageous action taken our casualised colleagues ,SMT met with us on 26th June. We asked them to do the following
- to begin the process of FTC review as from Monday 29 June;
- to set up the proper procedures for end of contract meetings and redundancy payments, appeals etc where appropriate;
- to conduct Equality Impact Assessments for all AL, GTT and FTC posts and to send these to GUCU by 10 July.
We have reiterated our casualised colleagues’ priority demands
- Contract extensions All casualised contracts, including AL, GTT and FTCs, should be extended until the end of October, when it will be clearer from student recruitment figures and other financial indicators whether contracts can be renewed for a longer period. Given that the University has refused to furlough its casualised academic staff, it is up to SMT to investigate and offer financially viable ways to extend our contracts.
- Clarity SMT must immediately contact all casualised workers whose contracts are due to expire this summer / autumn, including ALs, GTTs and fractional and full time workers on fixed term contracts, to give them a timetable for the review of whether their contract should be renewed, to arrange review meetings, and to make clear the criteria for the review process. Since arranging these meetings is well overdue, SMT should contact workers by June 19th.
- Negotiation The University must arrange to meet, at the earliest possible opportunity, representatives of University and College Union (UCU), along with elected representatives of those fixed term and casualised workers due to be laid off, to discuss with them planned levels of staffing, workload and student provision for the next academic year
Here are the rest of the demands that we fully support
- Workload impact The University must publish estimates of the impact on workload for remaining staff of cutting 472 teaching roles.
- Equality, diversity and racial justice The University must provide figures, where available, on the ethnic, gender and disability characteristics of the 472 staff to be laid off, and publish, by the end of June 2020, an equalities impact assessment of the plans to lay off 472 casualised workers.
- Redundancy The University must publish details of a system of enhanced redundancy payments to be offered in the event that any job cuts go ahead
- AL hours The University must honour additional hours worked by ALs/GTTs during the lockdown: HR must ensure that Departmental Business Managers contact all ALs/GTTs and request pay claims for all hours worked in addition to contracted hours during the lockdown.
- Reduce pay inequality The University should enact temporary salary cuts to Senior Management, explicitly ringfenced to fund the contract extensions of ALs and GTTs (approx £2.1 million per year budget for ALs/GTTs). This should include the Warden’s Office, Executive and Governance Services, Finance Services, Goldsmiths Strategic Venture, Strategic Planning & Projects, Organisation and Strategic Services and Planning).
We reminded SMT of the reputational damage being done to Goldsmiths as a result of their decision to freeze AL recruitment and review all fixed term contracts. The jobs of our precariously employed colleagues, of whom almost 50% are women and BAME, are being targeted to achieve cost savings. This is discriminatory and sabotages our efforts as a community to address institutionalised racism. These decisions make the Recovery Plan Equality and Diversity Guiding Principles ‘… diversity and inclusivity should be at the core of decisions for the future’ ring hollow.
We urged SMT not to shift responsibility for their decisions onto Heads of Department and asked them to listen to alternative approaches to resolve the situation which ensure the continuing employment of casualised staff until at least 31st October.
Goldsmiths UCU and Unison representatives, alongside London regional officials from both unions, normally meet 3 times a year with members of Goldsmiths SMT; namely Helen Watson, registrar, Elisabeth Hill pro warden for Teaching and Learning, Carol Ford, Director of HR and Nirmal Borkhataria, Director of Finance (Nirmal is more often than not absent).
Since Covid, at our insistence these meeting have been taking place more frequently, initially once a week, then once a fortnight and since the warden has taken over as the chairperson, when she feels like it. The content of discussions has largely been about ensuring safety and no detriment during Covid and arguing for the demands of our casualised colleagues. Susan prepares meticulously for each meeting providing us with detailed notes on each item for discussion. We have never been so well prepared and never has SMT been so unresponsive. There is a JNCC on Thursday 2nd July
I put in a joint union proposal for an increase in faculties from 0.5 FTE (0.1 for our case work coordinator; 0.1 for our administrator and 0.3 for president) to 2.0FTE. This was granted at the beginning of January. As a result a number of colleagues have been in post since March and the remaining positions allocated facilities time are about to be filled.
There have been three restructures this year.None of the colleagues involved wanted to oppose these restructures and there were no redundancies threatened.
MCCS Technical team was reorganised with no loss of jobs.
The Research and Enterprise departments have been merged to become the Research and Enterprisedepartment with no loss of jobs. However, one member decided to resign. That job was recently advertised.
Library this came about due to the departure of the Director of Library Services. Staffing has been reduced as a result of his departure and colleagues being granted VSS.
Here is another area where Goldsmiths was bottom of the league granting only 8 weeks of fully paid and 18 weeks half pay maternity leave. Helen Watson has just informed me that maternity pay will be increased to 18 weeks full pay and 8 weeks on half pay, to 1 September 2020. This will go to JNCC for discussion and we will argue for the provision to be back dated to September 2019 , given that this was submitted in early 2019.
UCU and Unison reps are permitted to attend the open part of council but have no speaking rights. We have been asking for the right to full democratic participation year on year. This is a battle yet to be won.
SEAtS (Student Success Platform – early warning system for retention, engagement, attendance, compliance and attainment issues)
SMT attempted to impose this system, at a cost of over £600,00 over 4 years, without prior consultation. We formed a Data and Democracy groups with the SU, GARA and Unison to oppose its implementation. So far it has not been implemented.
The GARA students, through their resolve, their sacrifice and their sharing of their pain and frustration arising from their lived experience in a racialised society, have helped us to understand how racism must be addressed in all its subtle and implicit forms. We have resolved to take this board and change ourselves to make Goldsmiths a university we can be truly proud of.
The Racial Justice Strategy, led by Nicola Rollock with Sofia Akel, was set up to form part of the Goldsmiths institutional strategy, focusing specifically on race equality to ensure that racial justice and taking account of Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action demands. Sofia has resigned and Nicola has experienced considerable obstacles in trying to work with SMT. Within individual departments members are ta king leading roles in decolonising the curriculum. Their failure to conduct Equality Impact Assessments suggests that tackling institutionalised racism does not appear to be a priority for Goldsmiths SMT. We are challenging their lack of commitment to anti-racism in a range of contexts.
London Region UCU, UCU Solidarity and Branch Solidarity Network
GUCU is represented in all these forums.
What does the (academic) year ahead hold?
Due to government negligence and incompetence it is likely that longed for reduction in Covid 19 cases will not be reached any time soon.
The fight for our casualised members jobs must continue . We must expose the nonsensical policy of SMT that rests on the ridiculous notion that to save departments from closure ALs, GTT and FTC must be sacrificed.
We have to continue to protect ourselves from detrimental impact of excessive workload by making it clear to SMT that we cannot take on extra work as a result of redundancies.
We must ensure that SMT listen to our H & S reps to all the necessary tests have ben undertaken before a return to campus working.
We must hold fast to our principles of no detriment as outlined in our Memorandum of Understanding. This will include all the equalities issues outlined in the Equalities report.
- We need maintain our links with Greenwich University UCU and seek greater contact and solidarity with our UCU colleagues in FE, Adult and Prison education . This will be crucial if we are to fight for an education service that serves the people not profit.
- We need to build on the positive relationships that has developed with our colleagues in Unison, as well continue to work in solidarity with Justice for Workers, Lewisham and Greenwich NEU and the other local trade unions
- We need to continue to work with local environmental activists who contributed to the climate events in September.
We may not win all our demands but what we discover and nurture on our picket lines is what threatens the employers most – our enjoyment of being together sharing our ideas, our concerns and complaints about our working conditions, our difficulties in making ends meet. The camaraderie that grows the more time we spend together, is what nourishes hope and builds our determination to fight.
We are angry about system that sees are young people begin their adults lives in soul destroying debt, we are angry about a system that allows vice chancellors, wardens and SMT to be paid obscene amounts of money while university workers struggle to pay their rent and work way beyond the hours for which they paid in order to do right by their students. We are angry about a system that offers no future for early career academics whose career progression restricted to a variety of precarious contracts.
We are angry about a system that cares nothing for those sleeping on the streets, that sees our universities, hospitals and schools underfunded while those at the top fly around the world, spending their unearned money accumulating stuff and thereby destroying our planet.
Let’s take a leaf out of management’s book and use and our heightened awareness of injustice that has been exposed due to Covid 19, to harness our anger and our energy to fight casualisation, the race and gender pay gaps and bring the salaries and working conditions of our precarious colleagues to a level commensurate with their worth and defeat Frances Corner’s plan to destroy all that we value in Goldsmiths.
Marian Carty 1st July 2020