WORKLOAD CRISIS – WE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER TO FIGHT BACK

GUCU members email 08 Sept 2020

Dear All,

This is an important email about the redundancies facing Casualised Colleagues at Goldsmiths. While many Permanent members of staff are scrambling to prepare for the start of Term, they may not realise that Colleagues on Fixed Term contracts including Visiting Lecturers, Course Convenors, Associate Lecturers, and others, have in recent weeks been invited to ‘end of contract’ or ‘non-renewal’ meetings. We are very concerned about the effects of the loss of scores of valuable Fixed Term colleagues and the impact on their students (we know from the statistics of casualisation at Goldsmiths that these colleagues are disproportionately female and from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds). 

GUCU is working with affected Colleagues to challenge the termination of their employment and ensure that proper process is followed with regards to the Assimilation Agreement and the Goldsmiths Change Management Policy. But by no means are we in touch with all affected Colleagues. We therefore need to work together to reach out to Casualised Colleagues to identify issues and intervene. So please get in touch. GUCU has additionally requested that SMT urgently share information, broken down by protected characteristics, as to how many Casualised staff are affected, though this has not been forthcoming. Proceeding with this damaging policy while refusing to conduct Equality Impact Assessments forms the grounds of our local dispute.

Workload

And this all comes at a time when our workload is increasing, rather than decreasing, with the switch to online teaching and pastoral care and student numbers that have (broadly) held up. Yet AL and Fixed Term budgets in departments have been cut. This will only lead to an increase in workload for already overstretched and stressed staff. We must not forget that these redundancies, non-renewals and workload increases are taking place in the middle of a global pandemic. Not only is it reprehensible to make staff redundant now, it also means there will be further loss of staff due to illness and caring responsibilities – especially if the current unfeasible and unjust plans for on-campus teaching are to be realised over the coming term. Again and again we see universities, like other institutions, putting their most vulnerable staff at the highest risk for the least reward, a pattern which is repeated in its relationship to students. This results in serious damage to the university’s duty of care to its community and ability to fulfil its educational mission – a false economy whichever way you look at it.

Losing valued Casualised Colleagues means that Permanent staff are also losing dedicated research time. We are also seeing the non-replacement of Colleagues who have taken Voluntary Severance, and we are seeing the College offering reduced hours to staff with caring responsibilities in exchange for a pay cut. These are collectively known as the ‘Staff Cost Control Measures’ in the Goldsmiths ‘Recovery Plan’. We can only hope Goldsmiths SMT is as committed to the control of the virus as it is to the control of these ‘costs’.

We have developed the workload campaign to protect staff from a workload crisis which is a real threat to staff and student physical and mental health. More information is here.. We hope that colleagues being given higher workload will take part in the I Object campaign, which we hope in turn will encourage HoDs and SMT to think again about letting our casualised colleagues go. Please talk to your colleagues as the I Object campaign can only succeed if ‘We Object’. There is a second Pledge linked to the first which highlights Health and Safety, and we’d urge you to sign both as the issues cannot be separated. Workload levels that violate health and safety laws and cover work for missing colleagues are due to ‘staff cost control measures’ that are at the heart of our dispute, for which an overwhelming motion to ballot recently passed. 

You might feel that it’s worth keeping your head down if your Dept budget and staffing is not badly affected this time round. However, even as we know solidarity is the only way to resist cuts happening in other departments, we also know that – as set out in Evolving Goldsmiths and the virtually identical Recovery Plan – the re-structuring will affect all of us, if not today, then tomorrow or next week. The situation will not improve if we don’t take a stand, and temporary measures will become the new normal. None of this is inevitable – even in the UK, universities with profiles comparable to Goldsmiths are making other, more responsible choices. This is about our working and learning conditions, but workload is also a matter of ‘Covid justice’ – making sure we are not once again made to shoulder the burden of paying for the crisis.

In solidarity, 

GUCU Exec