Addressing Workload at Goldsmiths

GUCU Workload Campaign – Position Paper 2019 to be discussed at GUCU branch meeting 18.12.2019, 12.30-2pm, RHB Cinema

For several years, GUCU members have been concerned re workload. Despite an ongoing pay inequality claim (3rd year in a row) employers still refuse to talk about workload, and we’re met with offers of Wellbeing and Resilience training – this places it onto the individual and avoids looking at the bigger problems that are endemic.   In Spring 2018, 154 members of staff completed a survey with some alarming results. 75% stated that workload volume is not fit to contracted hours; 91.7% regularly work during an unpaid lunch break (1/3 don’t take breaks);68.4% consulted GP about work related illness.  Key findings from this survey were presented ​to the Health & Safety Committee,  who read it and agreed for it to be forwarded to the Human Resources and Equality Committee. Feedback had to be pursued and, when forthcoming, data from the Wellbeing Pulse survey was used to demonstrate that ‘89% would rate Staff Wellbeing at Goldsmiths highly’.

Following recent work auditing Workload allocation in different department, it is clear that there is disparity and a lack of transparency surrounding workload, and a GUCU Workload Campaign group was set up.

GUCU would like to replicate the UCU campaign pilot – there are currently 30 branches adopting the model to to tackle workload .  It’s a streamlined model, where everyone is invited to participate, and there are clear steps to follow.  These local targeted campaigns can then be joined up to fight on a national level, part of UCU’s ‘It’s Your Time’ campaign.

Some of the changes needed regarding workload are

  • Reorganisation 
  • Changing contracts
  • Changing policies and procedures 
  • New technology 
  • Office space

So, what next?

UCU are asking for a Health and Safety framework to deal with stress and workload issues – we need to build up leverage with our employers for a change in culture. Previous attempts to ask for more money were refused, and working groups, although well-meaning, can take over a year to filter down.  Previous surveys carried out by GUCU previously have been dismissed too easily, and it’s time to work together more efficiently.  UCU wants to work together nationally, to demand for best practice; while getting local branches to get quick wins at department level, we also need to look at more structural aspects. In industry, working with machinery, if there is hearing loss, employers need to fix the noise of the factory, not give out hearing aids!  

We need to collect evidence of our employer in breach of legal duties to alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression; a risk assessment needs to be carried out and controls put in place.  It’s also important to note that we can’t base our workload on a static workload model – we need to monitor and enforce agreements, as a dynamic process.  We need to be consulted all the time if anything changes in terms of workload

How will we collect data?

We will use H&S Workload reps to carry out workload inspections and collect information via surveys.  We currently have 10 trained Workload Health & Safety reps, as of September 2019, and are looking to train further reps.  As we’re appointed by UCU as Health and Safety reps to check legal rights and employer duties,  we can survey everyone, not exclusively UCU members.  This will give us a much richer view of what is happening at Goldsmiths. 

A letter with a list of Workload rep names has been sent to Goldsmiths, and our employer has a duty to consult and provide facilities and assistance in this matter. 

This can be done by:

  • Inspections and investigations 
  • Checklist of hazards
  • Meet with staff 
  • Investigate potential hazards

We can use the stress management standards (SMS) which looks specifically at 6 factors which cause stress.  We aim to collect evidence under these six headings on our employers’ behalf.  This is best practice guidance to employers from HSC, but rarely happens.  

The six factors are: 

  • Demands
  • Control
  • Support
  • Relationships 
  • Role
  • Change

Using the survey which has already been taken up by other UCU branches, we can collate data college-wide.  We can also work together as Workload reps to carry out systematic workload inspections within departments.  

Aside from the survey, we aim to collect testimonies from colleagues, to further highlight issues around workload.  Following the recent strike action, there has been a raised awareness of how workload affects all members – the gender pay gap, the BAME pay gap, casualisation, and increasing workloads are just a few.  

What will we do with the data?

Once the survey has been completed, we will use this to pull out themes, both within departments and college-wide, for all staff, both academic and professional.  We will use this for discussion and further investigation,  following a legal framework to push for changes from our employer.   Initially, we will look for short term quick wins to campaign on, but we can also look into longer term solutions.  Most importantly, as Health and Safety is a legal responsibility, UCU Workload reps will attend JNC meetings to present reports and take steps to develop meaningful strategies to tackle issues relating to workload.