Covid-19 and Equalities Campaign

Endorsed at GUCU branch meeting 18.05.2020

Goldsmiths claims to aspire to lead the sector in its commitment to equality and to embed considerations of equality and diversity into all its processes, strategic and day to day planning, and governance. And yet the institution’s response to the Covid-19 crisis is having a detrimental impact on equality and diversity in every aspect of its approach – it seems that unless we resist, Black and Ethnic Minority (BAME), women, LGBTQ+, and disabled staff are set to bear the brunt of the crisis, making Goldsmiths’ commitment to equality ring hollow. From the blanket non-renewal of fixed-term contracts and the freeze on hiring hourly paid Associate Lecturer (AL) and Graduate Trainee Tutor (GTT) contracts next year, to the freeze on promotions and dedicated research leave, to the unacceptable increase in already impossible workloads, to lack of transparency or proper consultation with union representatives, the Senior Management at Goldsmiths seem determined that the axe will fall on those least able to bear it and those who are already structurally marginalised and oppressed. This campaign paper sets out what the issues are, how they cascade into one another to compound discrimination, and what we can do to fight back.

The Issues:

 Casualisation, Discrimination, and Covid-19

Goldsmiths employs almost 800 people on Associate Lecturer, Graduate Trainee Tutor and fixed-term contracts, many of which are due to end over the summer. That means that over 40% of our teaching staff are on casualised contracts. This in itself is a scandal. Research has shown that casual academic contracts are fundamentally dehumanizing.

But it is also well known that casualisation exacerbates existing inequalities. Across the sector, because of discrimination, those contracts are disproportionately held by BAME academics and female academics. For example, almost half of all female Asian academics are on fixed term contracts (45% in comparison to 28% for white males).

By terminating existing fixed term contracts and freezing AL contracts for next academic year, Goldsmiths has further deepened the inequalities wrought by casualisation. Under this ‘policy’ a disproportionate number of the people who will lose their jobs during this pandemic will be BAME, women, often with caring responsibilities, and they will be cut loose at a time when their prospects for work are almost non-existent, while senior managers sit on six figure salaries. Furthermore, a number of staff on AL contracts comprises of PhD students; it has already been noted by research institutions   that Black and minority students have limited access to PhD research funding due to structural barriers and experience significant financial precarity during their doctoral studies. Cancelling these contracts, will deepen these racialized oppressions. It is a nonsense to produce glossy equality and diversity brochures such as ‘Together We are Different’, when the institution plans to make those who are already most insecure pay for the crisis.

UCU demands that all fixed-term, AL and GTT contracts be extended until October 31, 2020, and that Goldsmiths makes use of the extended furlough scheme as a matter of urgency

The institution has a special duty to protect staff during this pandemic  – the brunt of it should not be borne by those who are already face discrimination as BAME, women and carers, and as casualised employees. The university must make a commitment to protect its staff during the Covid crisis by extending contracts for casualised staff and making use of the extended furloughing scheme; it must instruct Departments to extend contracts until October 31 and provide Departments with the funds to do so through a significant salary sacrifice scheme for senior management.



Workload is an equalities issue and one that is connected to casualisation. The pandemic has increased workloads across the board as staff have made colossal efforts to transition to online learning, offering enormous amounts of support to students who are anxious or struggling. GUCU’s recent survey on workload and stress shows that most staff have seen their workloads increase by between 10 –and 40 hours per week. The burden of pastoral care falls disproportionately on the shoulders of female members of staff (particularly WoC), BAME staff, LGBQT+ staff and disabled staff, as students reach out to those who will understand their experiences and because care-work is gendered and racialised. While the increase in workload is unacceptable for all staff, it does not fall equally, so that those who already suffer discrimination are having to work even longer hours, often while facing losing their jobs this summer. Of course, for many this is taking an unacceptable toll on their mental health and well-being.

Many women face the double burden of workload and childcare. While schools have been shut, women with children have had the bulk of responsibility for childcare, for home schooling, domestic labour, all while continuing to do their paid jobs. This is particularly acute for single parents who have no extra support. Goldsmiths has paid lip service to supporting those with caring responsibilities, but this has not been factored into teaching loads or marking loads, largely because there is no one to take up the extra work. Many are afraid to speak up about how they are struggling because of the atmosphere of financial crisis and the threat of redundancies. This situation will only become worse if Goldsmiths sacks fixed-term, AL and GTT colleagues.  Goldsmiths must make good its pledge to support staff with parenting and caring responsibilities by instructing Departments to cut excessive workloads immediately. Slashing the numbers of AL and fixed term staff will inevitably increase the workload of permanent staff, and this in turn will hit hardest those permanent staff who have the heaviest loads already, the majority of whom who are women, BAME and carers. We must resist this.

Disabled colleagues and those with chronic health conditions are hit unfairly by any increase in workloads. Excessive workloads have a disproportionally negative impact on the health and wellbeing of disabled and chronically ill colleagues, often causing a worsening of conditions that staff face. The university has made no attempt to address the negative impact of long working weeks on those who suffer long-term ill health or other forms of disability, and this is an abrogation of responsibility that must be acted upon.

GUCU  demands that Goldsmiths urgently address the question of workload for those with children and other caring responsibilities.

GUCU demands that Goldsmiths urgently addresses the unsustainably long hours that staff are working and develop plans that protect those with disabilities and chronic health conditions.

The fight for equality, the fight to defend casualised staff and the fight to demand sustainable workloads are the same fight. Our unity is our strength.



We have already seen that BAME staff and women are more likely to be casualised, and alongside disabled and LGBQT+ staff, are more likely to work longer hours, and do more pastoral work, with negative impacts. Casualised staff often have greater teaching and marking loads than permanent staff, disabled staff are more likely to be unable to sustain long periods of overwork and parents and carers (usually women) face a double burden of work and childcare. In all of these cases, these staff will have less time to do research for all of the reasons set out so far. The result is discrimination for these staff groups whose research and career trajectories are negatively impacted. For instance, research has shown that, due to structural inequality, women are conducting and submitting for publication less research than men during the Covid-19 crisis. Editors of journals are reporting that in the months since the coronavirus crisis began, the number of submissions from women academics has decreased significantly while for some journals the number of submission from men has increased as much as 50%. Women have been overwhelmed with additional childcare, home schooling and their own university teaching and student pastoral care, so that for many research has been squeezed out. Goldsmiths’ decision to suspend dedicated research time significantly exacerbates the structural inequality faced by BAME, women, LGBTQ+ and disabled staff, who have less time to do research for the reasons outline above and who often occupy more than one of position of oppression, facing compounded and multi-layered discrimination as a result.

GUCU demands that there be no suspension of dedicated research time.



Promotions is an equalities issue. Goldsmiths does not embed equalities into its promotion process; it has no mechanism for tracking the equal application of criteria over time in the promotions process to ensure that BAME, women, disabled and LGBTQ+ staff are treated fairly, it has no means of accounting for the fact that these groups do proportionally more pastoral care and other forms of academic citizenship that go unrecognised in the promotions process, it does not even collect statistics about BAME staff promotions, despite the promises made in ‘Together We are Different’. Goldsmiths recognises that it is a problem that, while women make up 53% of academic staff at Goldsmiths, only 38% are professors. The decision to suspend the promotions process (which is at odds with many other institutions) will further entrench discrimination.

Goldsmiths SMT are treating the promotions process entirely in relation to pay. But promotions is about much more than pay – it is crucially an acknowledgement of the value of our research and is a way of signalling it beyond Goldsmiths. The suspension of promotions impacts on the reputation of the individual, and their future job prospects, as well as impacting on the reputation of the department, given that promotions are recorded in REF documents. These impacts are unequally distributed, both due to the structural discrimination and due to college practices (outlined above) that undermine, rather than support, equality. Women, BAME and disabled staff are less likely to be promoted under normal circumstances and suspending promotions exacerbates this inequality. In addition, we have seen how the covid-19 crisis has compounded unequal distributions of workload and negative impacts on research time, which means that these groups have unfairly had their research productivity hindered. They will then be judged on the basis of that lack of productivity, which is of the institution’s making, not their own.

To the extent that promotion is an issue of pay, Goldsmiths must recognise that it is a crucial aspect of the continuing pay gap: for instance, while Goldsmiths claims that the pay gap between men and women on the same grade is ‘only 3.6%’, this does not account for the negative impact that inequality in promotions has on women’s pay overall. We do not know what the BAME and disabled pay gap or promotions gap is, as the institution does not collect this data, despite their commitment to improving data-gathering to do with equality and diversity. But we do know that suspending the promotions process will have a disproportionally negative impact on the research and career trajectory of these staff.

GUCU demands that the promotions process goes ahead this year and that mechanisms for tracking equality are introduced to the promotion process as a matter of urgency.


Health and Safety

Mental health and wellbeing are equalities issues. Disabled colleagues and those with long-term and chronic health conditions are more likely to suffer greatly from Covid-19. Those with pre-existing health conditions are more at risk than other groups. In addition, older colleagues are also more vulnerable to Covid-19 than others and studies have shown that people of BAME backgrounds account for 35% of Covid-19 patients while representing 13% of the UK population. Goldsmiths’ lack of transparency and consultation over the corona crisis is not acceptable.

UCU demands to know what measures are being put in place to protect all staff and students and particularly the most vulnerable.

As a public body, the College has an active duty to consider the impact on equality in all decision-making. In planning papers it can no longer claim that there is no positive or negative impact of plans made. No Equality Impact Assessment has been carried out at this most important time and that must change.