SMT to renege on agreement with GUCU? Join a strategy meeting to stop them.

GUCU Strategy meeting will take place on on Monday July 12th, 4pm – all members have been emailed the zoom link.

Dear Members,

This email is to update you on the latest on SMT’s “Recovery Plan”, including some troubling news about threatened redundancies to both fixed-term and permanent colleagues, and to inform you about an urgent strategy meeting (open to all GUCU members) on Monday July 12th at 4pm- zoom link emailed to members. 

Bankers to decide the future of Goldsmiths?

Senior managers are currently attempting to finalise negotiations for a £5-7m “revolving credit facility” (RCF) (essentially a short term overdraft), brokered by corporate consultants and accountants. The deal involves Goldsmiths putting up the vast majority of the College’s estates as collateral, renegotiating its existing loans (£28m) and subjecting itself to highly restrictive covenants, terms and conditions. The loan, if even used,must be repaid in just one year. An anonymous banker and financial analyst describes the loan as “a pretty sweet deal” for the banks and a very poor one for Goldsmiths.

So why is SMT keen to enter such a bad arrangement? While the College needs to address the deficit, the suspicion is that the accelerated schedule this deal ties Goldsmiths into will allow senior management to absolve itself of responsibility for the huge job cuts it wants to make anyway, with the excuse that “the banks require these savings”. The poor terms and conditions of the loan also represent a vote of no confidence by the banks in SMT’s plans. Crucially, the RCF has not yet been agreed and we have the chance to stop it, but if Council confirms the RCF on July 21st, this would amount to handing the medium term future of a public institution to the undemocratic control of private banks.

SMT plans £4m job cuts, in possible violation of agreement with GUCU

Senior management insists that it needs to turn a £14m deficit into a £1m surplus within just 12 months. Given Goldsmiths’ potential for growth, this is unnecessarily fast. As part of this plan, SMT intends to push ahead with £4m of job cuts in that time frame. Though industrial relations law states that the employer must consult recognised unions before enacting redundancies, senior management has made clear that it aims to start the process of cutting jobs from September 2021.

Workers on fixed-term contracts (FTCs) are especially at risk: SMT can make millions of pounds of “savings” by not renewing FTCs this summer, and we know that HoDs in some departments have already been asked to make cuts. Indeed, in finance reports and equality impact assessment documentation given to GUCU by SMT, FTCs are mentioned as a cost-saving area within the broader strategic priorities of the recovery plan.

Any cost-saving measures targeting FTC staff with more than two years of service carried out as part of the recovery programme must follow the change management policy. As such, the university has a legal obligation to fulfil the section 188 requirements with the recognised trade unions and carry out a redundancy consultation process before making any such targeted cost-saving redundancies as part of the recovery plan.

Additionally, the agreement between senior management and GUCU promises that no staff will leave their posts through compulsory redundancy prior to March 2022, and that temporary staff will be treated equally in any redundancy process. 

SMT’s plans may therefore breach the agreement between management and unions that ended the assessment boycott in the spring and flout the The Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations of employment law

GUCU is exploring the possibility of taking legal action against the university management for these possible breaches of employment and industrial relations law.

It’s not too late to stop SMT handing over power to the banks

Council, Goldsmiths’ governing body, is due to decide whether to approve the plan for the RCF loan on 21 July and, if it is approved, following this meeting senior managers will meet with the banks to conclude the deal.

There is still time to stop this deal. We know the banks are nervous about Goldsmiths’ plan to repay the loan, and some Council members can be persuaded that the university should not sign, and has no need to sign, such a bad deal. 

GUCU and Unison are holding a joint meeting for all staff on Tuesday 20 July, 12.30-1.30pm – open to everyone regardless of union membership – to raise awareness about the threat of redundancies and the role of financial institutions in this process. In the run up to this meeting, we can use social media, put pressure on Council members and on the banks, and plan for industrial action to prevent this attack on workers. 

Come to the strategy meeting on Monday 12th July at 4pm

At the meeting, we will discuss plans and take on work to start to apply pressure to try and stop the RCF and the redundancies that are threatened if it goes ahead. There will be a focus on communications and on how we can exert leverage in different ways. 

Please come along. We have to act quickly before this becomes a done deal, but through building on the successes of our assessment boycott and our virtual pickets earlier this year, we can stop these cuts.

In solidarity, 

Goldsmiths UCU