“Evolving Goldsmiths” notice of “Failure to Agree”

On Friday 28.02.2020 UCU gave notice of a formal dispute to the Warden over the proposed ‘Evolving Goldsmiths’ measures – see below. We encourage all members to join us at our branch meeting on Tues 3 March, 1pm, to discuss how members now wish to take this forward.

Dear Frances,

I am writing with regret in order to give notice of a ‘Failure to Agree’ and to declare a formal dispute on the proposed restructuring and other measures currently being pursued in the name of ‘Evolving Goldsmiths’, on the following issues:

  1. the University has failed to engage in meaningful consultation on, and in negotiation has failed to agree to what we see as absolutely necessary alterations to, a restructuring proposal that affects the contractual terms and conditions of employment of a very large number of (grade 1-10) staff;
  1. the University has failed to engage in meaningful consultation on its plans, as evident from its recent financial accounts and statements, to address much of the £10million deficit through large numbers of (grade 1-10) staff redundancies within a short timescale.

We note that our efforts to resolve these issues have now passed through Stage 1 and Stage 2 of our agreed disputes resolution procedure, which has now been exhausted. We are, therefore, forced to declare a formal dispute. This does not mean that we see no value in further meetings and discussion about the issues, of course, and indeed we would ask you to agree dates and times for further meetings urgently. We note that the Disputes Resolution Procedure provides for conciliation through ACAS if agreed by both parties. On condition that the restructure be halted in order to allow for negotiations to continue, we would be prepared to meet on that basis if you thought it might assist.

To be clear, we call on you to halt the ‘Evolving Goldsmiths’ plans immediately and urge you to engage with unions and the campus community more generally in order to develop a plan through meaningful consultation that will have a much greater chance of achieving the stated aims of ‘Evolving Goldsmiths’: to improve the student experience and to address the University’s financial deficit in a timely manner.

We will now consult democratically with our members on any action they may wish to take should the University not accede to this call. We remain open to negotiation with a view to resolving these issues, and ready and willing to engage vigorously and proactively in developing and executing radical plans for change that we believe will actually have a chance of securing a bright future for Goldsmiths’, a future in which we and our members are hugely invested.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Additional notes:

  1. The restructuring announced as part of the ‘Evolving Goldsmiths’ scheme has been presented as involving a ‘minor’ realignment, involving a simple shift in line management and reporting structures for Heads of Dept (HoDs), Department Business Managers (DBMs) and School Administrators (or equivalents). It is clear that these are in fact huge changes that will affect not only the roles and job descriptions of the staff in these categories, but the many administrative, academic related and academic staff they line manage. The proposed changes will negatively impact the majority of staff in academic departments, further damaging the student experience. Opposition to this has been voiced across all sections of the University including by many Heads of Department, Departmental Business Managers, the campus trade unions, the professoriate, Academic Board, the Students’ Union, the Goldsmiths Racial Equality Group (GREG), together with individual staff, students and stakeholders across the University and the wider community. All of these groups have made clear that they have not been consulted or included in the development of the proposed restructure in any meaningful way.

The trade unions’ Recognition Agreement with the University defines meaningful consultation as “involving a genuine exchange of views and information on issues of mutual concern”; and as “a means of putting forward and jointly considering alternative options” involving “an opportunity to influence decisions and their application.” All of the above-mentioned groups have indicated that all exercises relating to ‘Evolving Goldsmiths’ in which they have been asked to participate by the University have been nothing more than ‘tick-box’ exercises, with no meaningful traits in the above sense. Moreover, all these groups have strongly emphasised that the University has provided no evidence for their assertion that the restructure will positively affect the student experience, and have testified to the numerous ways in which it will have a negative impact – and already has begun to have such an impact – on student experience, staff and student wellbeing and mental health, and staff morale.

  1. Goldsmiths announced a voluntary redundancy scheme at the end of January 2020. This was presented as part of a set of measures under the ‘Evolving Goldsmiths’ umbrella to address a financial deficit of at least £10million. The ‘Evolving Goldsmiths’ paper approved by Council in January 2020 states that, should the voluntary severance scheme fail to achieve the necessary staff salary savings, a compulsory redundancy scheme will be necessary. Whether through voluntary or compulsory mechanisms, the University is clearly committed to reducing the larger part of the deficit through staff redundancies. This is set to take place over a relatively short  timescale despite the University’s own commentary on the OfS financial return from August, based on a more conservative estimate of the deficit, that stated that it would be “unwise to attempt reduce costs too quickly, as it could damage the student experience.” Since then, the targeted savings from reduced staff headcount have significantly increased, within a shorter timeframe.

While the trade unions were consulted on the specific terms of the voluntary severance scheme, neither they nor any other potentially affected staff were consulted prior to the announcement of the scheme with a view to seeking alternative approaches to reducing the deficit as is mandated in the University’s Change Management procedure. In voicing their lack of faith in the ‘Evolving Goldsmiths’ scheme, the above-mentioned groups (including the trade unions, DBMs, Academic Board, HoDs, a staff collective comprising nearly 600 signatories, the professoriate, the Students Union and many other groups of professional and academic staff and students) have indicated their willingness to constructively engage in developing an alternative approach, and have demanded that the University halt the ‘Evolving Goldmiths’ plans, starting with the planned departmental restructures, in order to allow them to do so in a meaningful way.