Motions passed at Goldsmiths branch meeting

At a very well attended branch meeting at Goldsmiths on November 5, we passed the following motions on USS.

1. This branch notes:

  •  The unjustified and illegitimate attack on our pensions and pledges its opposition to any downgrading of our pension benefits.
  • The increasing divisions amongst the employers with, most recently, Oxford and Warwick Universities making public criticisms of the employers’ proposals.
  • The launch of an assessment boycott as a necessary response to the attacks on our pensions and urges members to explain the issues to students and to collectivise the action wherever possible. This might consist of, for example, organizing Departmental meetings about the implementation of the boycott, leafleting student halls of residence and sharing strategies across branches.
  • UCU policy that, in the event of other universities making drastic deductions of pay for partial performance, ‘members should be informed that should an employer implement punitive deductions this will result in a national response and the calling of national strike action’ and urges UCU to stick to this promise.

This branch calls:

  • On Goldsmiths SMT to make a public statement opposing the attack on our pensions and urging meaningful negotiations as soon as possible.
  • On UCU negotiators to defend the final salary scheme for existing members and to extend it to all members of USS.
  • On UCU negotiators to sanction plans for escalation including a boycott of admissions-related events and procedures.
  • For a recall special sector conference to draw up the most effective strategy for the dispute.
  • For a College-wide Assembly to discuss the pensions dispute (and related issues) in association with the other campus unions [which we now have for Tuesday 18 November].

2. The branch also passed the following bullet points aimed at national negotiators

We demand that negotiators

  • immediately undertake actions that can affect our employers at the financial level, instead of relying on a form of pressure which is transmitted via our students;
  • immediately make clear to its membership what is the strategy of this action, how it envisages our action will put pressure on the employers, how it may be escalated and when, in relation to USS negotiations;
  • clarify to members what its parameters for negotiation might be: Are we engaged in industrial action to stop any changes to USS? Are there changes we would accept?
  • consult with branches about the nature of their action and support forms of action beyond the marking boycott (boycott of open days, boycott of admissions,  consecutive strikes days, etc…);
  • undertake national strike action in support of members at universities who face 100% pay deductions for actions short of a strike;
  • explicitly address how it will support its most vulnerable members in terms both of the pension dispute and the industrial action.

 

UCU Dispute to Defend Pensions

We had a really well attended general meeting on Wednesday where we heard about the inspiring campaign against casualisation at SOAS and then passed two motions (soon to be available on the website) in relation to the pensions dispute. Members asked for further clarification on how best to participate in the assessment boycott so here is our most up-to-date guidance. We will be in touch with you soon with dates of ‘surgeries’ where you can come and ask questions and make suggestions about the dispute/
The boycott has now started and is running indefinitely. As of now, you should not:
  • Set examinations
  • Mark or examine work that contributes to the formal assessment process
  • Process marks or assessments (even if these were produced before the boycott started)
  • Attend or participate in meetings in which student work is assessed or examined.
This applies to all levels of study – from undergraduate to doctoral dissertations – and includes both theory-based and practice-based work.The boycott applies to formal assessment only.

This covers work which attracts a mark or leads to a decision that formally contributes to an award or to progression. It does not apply to formative work as long as this work has no impact on a formal decision about a student’s mark or their suitability to progress.
This means that ‘interim’ assessments which do contribute to a final mark down the line are covered by the boycott. ‘Coursework essays’ and ‘indicative projects’ , on the other hand, which allow for lecturers to provide feedback and which are neither compulsory nor given a mark are not covered by the boycott.
Performance and practice-based work
Many members have asked about how best to deal with performance or practice-based work. This is best decided on collectively by members within the Department in conjunction with the branch executive and we are urging all Departments to hold ‘surgeries’ as soon as possible.
However, we have been told that if you do not feel it is possible to cancel or postpone the performance, then it is OK to attend the event as a normal teaching exercise and to keep private notes that may allow you to produce detailed comments leading to a mark once the boycott has been called off.
More detail on all of these issues can be found at http://defenduss.web.ucu.org.uk/assessment-boycott-faqs/
Management’s response
The College has assured us that, as things stand, they have no plans to deduct pay for ‘partial performance’.
Associate Lecturers
Under the assimilation agreement, ALs at Goldsmiths are paid separately for marking and thus will be particularly affected by the boycott. We will be operating a hardship fund but will consider setting up a levy from permanent members of staff as long as their pay remains unaffected. We would welcome your feedback on this.
Support from students
We are fully aware of the impact that such a boycott is likely to have on students but we have little choice if we are to apply maximum pressure to bring the employers back into meaningful negotiations. UCU has produced an A4 leaflet which you can get from the GUCU office or contact our temporary administrator, Yael Gerson (gucu-admin@gold.ac.uk). Please do circulate these to your students and patiently explain why students should support a campaign aimed at protecting the pay and conditions of the staff who teach them and who support their studies. Remember that the action is supported officially by Goldsmiths Students Union and by the NUS.
The Goldsmiths Assembly: 1-2pm Tuesday 18 November
All the campus unions have called a Goldsmiths Assembly for lunchtime on Tuesday 18 November in order to discuss the dispute and to consider other associated issues. Please come and bring your students and colleagues. Free pizza will be served! Further reading

There are interesting pieces on the dispute at:
In solidarity