Motion: Support for Legal Case ‘Short Course Lecturers vs Goldsmiths’

Passed unanimously at GUCU AGM, Thurs 1 July 2021

The branch notes

  • Short Course Lecturers at Goldsmiths are treated as ‘independent contractors’ (freelancers) and refused basic employment rights by being issued ‘agreements of service’ instead of contracts.
  • The Research and Enterprise department exercises substantial power over the terms of engagement of Short Course lecturers, including by arbitrarily changing aspects of their relationship with the university.
  • Despite continuous attempts at direct communication via the GUCU, the Research and Enterprise department has refused to engage with the union on issues raised by it in the course of the past year, denying these workers union representation.
  • Three Short Course Lecturers have started a legal procedure against Goldsmiths, challenging their status of freelancers and demanding workers’ rights.
  • With the support of GUCU Short Course reps, these Lecturers have engaged a solicitor from the law firm Leigh Day to represent them in the case and started a crowdfunding campaign to fund the legal costs for it.
  • It is not possible to determine in advance the amount of the legal costs but it is likely that they will surpass £20,000 in the course of the next few months. 

The branch believes

  • The fight of Short Course Lecturers for workers’ rights at Goldsmiths represents a key frontier in the fight against casualisation within the university. It also has the potential to set a precedent for the UK HE sector more broadly.
  • Confronted with the unwillingness of university representatives to recognise union representation for short course lecturers, legal action presents itself as the most viable way of challenging the implementation of increasingly detrimental employment practices.
  • The successful legal battle of Uber drivers against their employer demonstrates that legal action can contribute substantially to fighting casualisation at the workplace and to garner public attention for the cause.

The branch resolves

  • To act as a funder for the legal case against Goldsmiths. This not only protects individual tutors from having to bear the burden of meeting these costs on their own, but also means that the GUCU retains decision-making and negotiating power over the course of the legal battle.
  • To reach out to other branches and ask for support for the crowdfunder
  • To nominate Roberto Mozzachiodi, Neda Genova, Lucy Mercer and XXXX as members of a designated Short Course Lecturers’ subcommittee.
  • The subcommittee’s role will be to communicate and work directly with Leigh Day; co-ordinate the crowdfunding campaign; agree caps for outstanding legal fees.