We are writing to inform you that GUCU (which represents academic and professional service staff) is currently in dispute with University Management, over their failure to guarantee a fixed period of time with no compulsory redundancies of our Members.
What is our action about?
Once staff are made redundant, they will not be replaced. Once Programmes are closed, they will be lost for many years or even forever.
We are pursuing Action Short of a Strike – we are not on strike. We are pursuing this Action because we do not want to disrupt your learning any more than we have to and we regret it has come to this. We have spoken to Management but they are unwilling to compromise in any way that can give our Members hope.
Staff losses will affect students directly. You, as students have had a truly terrible year in so many ways – but you have also produced outstanding work and we hope that you know, if it were down to us, we would have done things differently about how the Universities sector treated students during the pandemic and in struggles before this.
Staff have been hiding their own struggles as much as possible, but we really now have no other choice.
We believe our demand is reasonable. Management should allow us all, at the very least, to genuinely ‘recover’ from the pandemic, by continuing to keep our jobs, and to make sure that we are fully staffed to deliver the best of our work in the months to come, with safely manageable workloads.
Job cuts are also an attack on equality
We anticipate that compulsory redundancies will affect staff on precarious terms of employment with protected characteristics, disproportionately. Any institution steeped in inequality, is an uncomfortable place for staff and students alike – and you will know that.
Unfortunately, detrimental treatment is already the case, with Management deciding to inform staff on Friday evening that carers and parents working at Goldsmiths would be denied furlough if they took part in industrial action.
University Management may also stop paying us. We are not on strike, but Action Short of a Strike, but they will threaten punitive measures even though we currently fully intend to teach and supervise your work and assist your learning and provide professional services.
If we are no longer paid, we have to be honest with you, that there may be more disruption to come.
Supporting student struggles
We continue to support a number of student struggles and activist aims and recognise that support for our campaigns has involved student labour that has not been credited or supported enough.
Firstly, we stand in solidarity with the Rent Strikers, firstname.lastname@example.org . Student fees should not go to paying off interest on their institution’s loans and indebtedness to private accommodation contractors (though sadly that is the reality of today’s financing of the sector as a whole).
Defending working and learning conditions
Universities should offer students: adequate numbers and diversity of staff, facilities, support services, and a full complement of relevant, interesting and important Programmes that students want and communities need, unique to that campus. And largely Universities do this, but the balance will be tipping very soon at Goldsmiths towards a less proportionate spend on the staff, unless we do something about it.
We have also supported the Students’ Union and the New Cross Community in campaigning for the difficult decision to keep as much learning online as possible – to oppose the Westminster Government’s insistence on “the University experience” of “blended” learning during a pandemic, even though this frustrates the corporate model of treating you like customers and many of you are unhappy about the result.
The UK sector has not followed global health protocols in the management of large, congregate settings like education and we see how the recent closing of schools has been a vindication of UCU’s criticism (and the NEU’s) of ‘Covid-secure’ as a business promise. We regret that international students are particularly caught up in this and will aim to avoid the specific injustices during our action here. Please seek out your GUCU Department Rep to resolve an urgent query about your situation, or if you are more comfortable speaking to an independent activist, email email@example.com
Refund and drop the fees
We wholeheartedly support the moves for a UK government-backed and underwritten refund of student fees this past academic year. This is not on the basis of any deficit in the work of our members, be it the teaching or our services provided, nor the quality of student work; but on the basis of the lack of planning and consideration of what was best for students, staff and wider communities by the UK government.
We completely support and campaign for the full funding of the Against Sexual Violence Campaign, and the campaign to Liberate Our Union (Students’ Union).
We also think that the example of GARA indicates that the current power structures of Goldsmiths need more democratising before we get to crises and we want to listen to student activists on how we can jointly mount a campaign on a democratising process that has the support of students.
We are working on student liaison groups and a dedicated area of our web-page to update you.
Please look out for information on the upcoming Staff-Student Forum on the 28th January, 12-2pm, where you can bring concerns and seek clarification.
If you would like to help us resolve this dispute and register the impact of this disruption on your studies, please write to Frances Corner, Warden.
With best wishes and in solidarity,
GUCU Branch Officers