Dear (Name of External Examiner),
I/we are contacting you to inform you about Goldsmiths UCU Branch’s dispute with the Senior Management Team (SMT) of the institution and to ask for your support.
Goldsmiths SMT is attempting to implement a restructure which will result in substantial job losses and a removal of subject areas that they do not deem profitable. This is the latest iteration of a ongoing plan – the first, ‘Evolving Goldsmiths,’ was attempted in the year prior to the pandemic and was halted after opposition by campus unions and other staff organisations. The current version is called ‘The Recovery Plan’, and is using the pandemic as an excuse to push through plans for job cuts, centralisation and programme closures.
Goldsmiths called a dispute in July following the sacking of a large number of precarious Associate Lecturer staff and the non-renewal of those on fixed-term contracts. These job losses impacted disproportionately on women, Black and Asian staff, and in particular on women of colour, who, due to structural discrimination, are more likely to be employed on casualised contracts. One of our demands was that the institution carry out their obligation not to discriminate against those with protected characteristics by conducting Equality Impact Assessments – those assessments have still not been carried out. Refusal to re-employ many of these staff or replace staff who have left, especially those in notable numbers via a voluntary severance scheme, has left remaining staff with intolerable workloads. Since then, SMT have outlined further planned ‘staff cost savings’ amounting to £millions, which will result in many redundancies across both the academic and the professional staff bodies.
After months of calling on SMT to talk, with no meaningful result, we had no option but to ballot for action. We achieved a decisive ballot result and began industrial action on January 4th 2021. Our undertaking is Action Short of a Strike, the keystone of which is an assessment boycott. GUCU members are refusing to mark work, set and invigilate exams, attend exam boards, enter marks into the student assessment record system and provide any formal feedback. We chose this action rather than a strike because we wanted to minimise the impact on students’ ongoing teaching and learning as far as possible. We regret it has come to this, but unfortunately the SMT are still not engaging with any alternatives and have failed to show sufficient regard for equalities.
The most recent example has astonished us because we consider it to be indirect discrimination against women members of staff and members of our local branch of UCU. On January 22nd, Goldsmiths announced via a ‘Staff News’ memo that the government furlough scheme, which has now been extended to include parents and carers when schools are closed, would not be offered to staff undertaking legal ASOS. This was reported on in the Guardian here.
It came as a shock to members when the College finally announced that there would be a flexible furlough scheme but that it would not be offered to the large number of staff undertaking legal and legitimate action short of a strike. Goldsmiths has a very high density of union membership, so this affects a significant number of female staff on Grade 6 and up.
I/we are sure you share our outrage at this decision, which raises both legal and ethical questions. We are extremely disappointed that the College has knowingly taken actions that will be clearly detrimental to gender equality in our institution. Parents and carers are at significant and sustained levels of stress, and there are government schemes in place to support us and to help get levels of infection down in our communities. Staff are stunned at this seemingly cruel decision to be strategic with the internal eligibility criteria of the government’s scheme, which should be designed to support us.
I/we are therefore asking you to resign from your post as external examiner in protest at the unequal treatment of women union members at Goldsmiths, and the wider plans to restructure the institution, including its academic portfolio, based on financial measures (the main justification for the restructure comes from a series of documents commissioned from KPMG). I/we are also asking that you write to the Warden of Goldsmiths, Frances Corner, to ask her to reverse this discriminatory policy on the question of furlough, and to meet with UCU representatives to try to resolve this dispute as a matter of urgency.
Template for writing to Goldsmiths.
Frances Corner, Warden
Cc: Carol Ford, Director of Human Resources
[cc: Head of Dept / Programme Convenor and Exams Officer, in the relevant Programme]
My name is _______ and I am a [position] at ________.
I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign from my post as External Examiner in protest at the unequal treatment of women union members at Goldsmiths, which has been brought to light in the national media recently, and recent and planned cuts to Goldsmiths staff.
It is unconscionable and shameful that work practices at your University should see parents and carers placed at significant and sustained levels of stress, especially while the mental health and wellbeing of children are risk-assessed nationally as being at a crisis point and there are government schemes in place to support employees in this situation, assisting the national, collective effort in keeping infection rates down in our communities.
I am asking you to reverse both this discriminatory policy on the question of furlough, and to meet with UCU representatives to try to resolve this dispute over the threat of mass redundancies, as a matter of urgency.