We were able to share your message regarding salary deductions with our UCU members present at our online branch meeting on Thursday afternoon. The overwhelming reaction was one of disbelief coupled with shock.
Under normal circumstances colleagues would, of course, expect to make the sacrifice of loss of pay as the result of taking strike action. However, these are exceptional, worrying and for some, who have lost relatives or have loved ones who are hospitalised due to the virus, extremely traumatic times.
We know that you recognise that staff have taken up the challenge that Covid-19 has triggered and are working enormous amounts of extra hours to adapt to online teaching, reassure students and colleagues. Given that this extra work will continue to be required over the coming months, I have no doubt that all staff who were on strike will soon have worked extra hours far beyond those that were lost due to strike action.
You may have noted, too, that despite being officially on Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) until the end of April, we have chosen not to emphasise this action to members in recognition of the urgent and immediate challenges of the pandemic. In addition, staff are incurring extra expense through use of their telephones, computers, additional energy costs and adapting their homes to enable them to work remotely. Many are also subsidising relatives/partners who have lost income due to the crisis (I mention this of course not to suggest that this is Goldsmiths’ concern directly, but to highlight an extra factor adding to the strain staff are under while trying to adapt and continue teaching and implement extra support for our students).
Your proposal to deduct pay in June and July means that colleagues will suffer additional financial hardship for 4 consecutive months from April through July. This could easily be avoided, at no significant cost to the institution (we know that the student hardship fund, to which deductions are to be transferred, is already in a very healthy state). The Warden has thanked colleagues for their effort and their creative approaches to keeping Goldsmiths functioning and providing students with the best possible learning environment and pastoral care that this crisis allows. Suspending the deductions would, in addition to showing the same generosity of spirit as some other institutions, demonstrate a practical recognition of the good will and extraordinary extra effort staff are showing – and a strong encouragement for them to continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead.
We strongly urge you to reconsider the decision to deduct strike pay as a measure that will be to the benefit of all of us, and Goldsmiths as a whole; and at the very least, to consider deferring deductions until the Autumn, when we will hopefully be past the worst of this incredibly difficult and unprecedented situation.