Letter from Goldsmiths UCU to all students about strike action

Dear student,

As you may now know, staff members in the University and College Union (UCU) have successfully concluded their ballots on two issues: on pay, equality, casualisation and workload – and on pensions. At Goldsmiths, over 86% of staff who took part in the ballot voted to strike to defend our pensions and nearly 85% to strike over pay and equalities. Along with dozens of other universities across the UK, we now plan to be on strike from Monday 25 November through to Wednesday 4 December. During that time, we hope – with your support – to put on a series of “teach outs” and other events that will focus on a range of urgent issues: from climate change to casualisation and from race and gender pay gaps to the impact of marketisation on our universities.

UCU has a long and proud history of working alongside NUS, students’ unions and students to defend education and when we work together, we can win. We are asking all students to please support us in our struggle for decent pay and conditions and to ensure that we have a pension that meets our needs in retirement.

Strike action is always the last option for university staff. We would prefer to be at work, helping students to learn, providing student support and continuing with our important research but we feel that we are left with little option.

University staff, on a yearly basis, have faced real term pay cuts while our employers continuously impose pay rises which are less than inflation insisting that we pay more every month towards our pensions.

More of us than ever before are on insecure contracts and living with high levels of uncertainty from year to year. This is bad for morale and significantly affects our ability to commit to our teaching and research. This means that students are increasingly getting a worse deal. So this strike action is also action to defend your education.

None of this is necessary and we have asked our employers to work with us on pay and pensions but there has been very little movement on their side. In 2018, university staff were forced to take 14 days of strike action to defend our pensions. This meant that 14 days were lost to staff and students. The strike only ended when our employers agreed to convene an expert panel (the JEP) to look at our grievances. The panel vindicated the position that staff on strike had taken. If our employers had listened to us in the first place, we would not have taken strike action and instead continued to work as normal.

Our employers are ignoring us yet again. They have chosen not to implement the changes which the JEP recommended and have insisted that we raise our pension contributions again. If they are not prepared to negotiate properly and reasonably with us, then we have no other option than to take strike action.

Students and staff working together can make a difference. Together we can get our universities to see sense so that these strikes, following our successful ballots, do not have to take place. Please:

  1. complain to Frances Corner, the warden of Goldsmiths: warden@gold.ac.uk
  2. work with your students’ union in support of our fight. We are enormously grateful for the solidarity already shown to us by Goldsmiths Students Union in their statement of 25 October.
  3. help us to get the word out that these strikes are not necessary
  4. join with staff in defending decent teaching and learning conditions
  5. if you are a postgraduate you can join UCU for free as a student member

Thank you so much for your support.

Your lecturers, librarians, IT and administration professionals