#Goldstrike FAQ for members

Q. What action is GUCU taking?

A. We are taking 3 weeks (15 days discounting weekends) of strike action from 23 November to 13 December 2021.

Q. What does taking strike action mean?

A. Strike action means not doing any work for all of the days specified by the union. This includes, for instance, time before 9am and after 5pm and includes any activity which is part of your work such as teaching, administration, meetings, emails relating to work, marking, completing registers, research or conferences where you are directly or indirectly representing your employer.

Q. Do we have to leave work for students?

A. No, leaving work for students or providing them with work completion instructions will undermine the impact of the strike.

Q. Should I reschedule lectures or classes that are cancelled due to the strikes?

A. No. Rescheduling classes will dilute the impact of the original strike action and the employer cannot insist you teach classes that they have made a strike pay deduction for.

Q. I am not a member of UCU, if I join can I then take part in the action?

A. Yes, if you join UCU you will be able to participate in the action with the protection of the union as soon as you are signed up. While non-UCU members have the legal right to participate in strike action at their workplace our strong recommendation is that you join UCU so you have the protection of a trade union before you join the action. You can join here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/join 

If you have provided the details requested on the form your membership will be active from the date of application. This means that you are able to take part in any strike action while awaiting your membership number. If you are a member of Unison you will not be able to participate in the strike. 

All workers can attend pickets to show support for their colleagues in their personal time. If you come to the picket on your personal time, make sure not to wear a college uniform or name badges.

Q. What can I tell my students about the strike?

A. Tell them the reasons you are striking, and what this may mean (cancellations of classes, etc.). They are welcome to join us on the physical pickets, teach outs and there will be opportunities to join in virtual events too. (FAQs for students here)

Q. What is the law on picketing?

A. Peaceful picketing is allowed and members are encouraged to get involved. Picketing should be carried out at or near an entrance or exit from a site at which the pickets work. When others who are not in dispute come into work or use these entrances or exits, pickets must not obstruct them. 

Q. When will we know what Goldsmiths plans to do in terms of deductions?

A. Goldsmiths have said that deduction will be at 1/365th of any annual salary for every day on strike for staff on full- and part-time contracts. They have said that for Associate Lecturers, deductions will be based on 1/7th of their average weekly hours for each teaching day missed. Deductions will be made from the first available payroll (i.e. December) after strike action has been taken and from a single month’s salary. Goldsmiths have also banned leave-taking between 12 November and 13 December, applying equally to all colleagues so that the best possible support can continue to be offered to students

GUCU has requested that SMT revoke the decision to deduct ALs and the ban on leave, and to space out deductions over a number of months.

Q. What has GUCU done to make the picket Covid safe?

A. GUCU Branch will aim to comply with the highest standards of health and safety during our pickets, teachouts and other activities. We will:

  • Foremost be mindful of the psychological and emotional impact of industrial action upon staff, students and guests to the campus and the local community and greet these encounters with empathy, care and accountability.
  • Follow the UK Government’s Code of Practice relating to peaceful picketing: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-picketing
  • Appoint a Picket Supervisor to assure these standards and within the meaning of the Trade Union Act 2016.
  • Follow UCU national guidance in taking care not to prevent or impede the supply of essential supplies and services, such as those essential to health and public safety or affecting the care of animals or, of course, emergency services.
    Show respect to all campus workers, especially colleagues whose labour is invisibilised and minoritised, by leaving spaces as safe as clean as we found them.
  • Create a thorough risk assessment, which will be published on the Goldsmiths Branch UCU website and which members are required to read before attending activities of pickets, teach-outs or social gatherings.
  • Within a risk assessment, follow all means reasonably practical to prevent the spread of Covid-19, flu and other infectious illnesses, such as:

Wear a mask or face covering at all times, even though we’ll be outside.

Take a lateral flow test the night before joining the picket line and do not attend the picket lines if you test positive (rest, and get well soon).

Avoid joining the physical picket if you are part of a demographic vulnerable to COVID, and participate in the virtual pickets instead.

Hand sanitiser will be available at all picket locations, but please bring your own as well.

Bring your own refreshments.

Avoid shouting and singing. No whistles or wind instruments. We’ll have music and microphones (sanitised between every use).

Label any placards with your name and stick to carrying the same one throughout the strike.

Invite people to pick up a leaflet from a stack on our table, this will be safer than handing out leaflets. 

Maintain social distancing. To check you’re at an appropriate distance from others, you should be able to hold out your arms (helicopter style) without touching anyone. 

Q. What are the legal requirements for reporting that we are on strike? 

A: Your employer might send you a formal sounding letter asking you to declare in advance whether you will be taking industrial action. You are under no obligation to inform your employer in advance as to whether you will be taking part in strike action.

Once the industrial action has begun and you are back to work following the strike action you should respond truthfully to any query from your employer as to whether you have taken or are taking industrial action. You should not, however, respond to any such query while you are on strike. ALs should report only the days of work which have been missed. For more guidance concerning strike declarations see: https://goldsmithsucu.org/2019/11/24/gucu-advice-to-members-concerning-strike-declarations/  

Q. Can we get confirmation that staff on visas (particularly ALs on visas) will be protected when they strike? 

A. https://www.ucu.org.uk/heaction-migrantworkers: As part of the changes to the Immigration Rules announced in September 2019, Tier 2 migrants will not be penalised in applications for ILR if they are absent from work due to legal strike action. This includes not being refused ILR if such an absence causes their salary to fall below the required threshold. 

Q. How can we mitigate any situations that might come up for staff on visas? + can staff on visas receive strike funds?

A. Staff in particularly precarious financial situations, such as those on visas, will be prioritised in gaining access to the local strike fund. 

Q. If we don’t self declare, how does the college calculate deductions?

A: If you don’t self-declare, the College may assume you have been working and pay you as normal. If this happens, you may want to make a donation to the strike fund: https://goldsmithsucu.org/donations/strikefund/ 

Q. If I want to strike, do I have to strike for the full 3 weeks or can I choose how long I strike for?

A. Any UCU member should be withholding their labour for the full strike period. Any member not withholding for that time, weakens the collective action and crosses the picket line.

Q. Are we also going to call a vote of no confidence in the warden and SMT. While the feeling is strong, is it possible to do this via the union, as the Open University did so in 2018? 

A. As we are currently involved in a local and national industrial dispute, with likely escalation tactics to follow the initial round of strikes, the union does not have capacity at this stage to oversee such an undertaking.

Q: How will this affect (partially or fully externally funded) postdoctoral fellows/research staff; what is expected, union-wise, and how can we support? Relating to this, what about student/researcher led (no staff present) events that are scheduled for this time? If online is this ok? / not against the strike action?

A: We want all of our members to participate as much as possible in the strike action. A strike is a collective action which you carry out as part of a union to improve your own and your colleagues’ working conditions. You do this both in the form of withdrawing your labour and participating in and helping to organise picket lines. Part of the purpose of this strike is to defend the posts of many research-based administrators. Their loss will directly impact the working conditions of research staff at the university. As long as you are an employee of Goldsmiths, you are legally entitled to take strike if your project is externally funded. In principle we would expect researchers to avoid using Goldsmiths facilities during the strike. We would expect all work, including research events, related to your professional position at Goldsmiths to halt during the strike. 

It may be worth checking with the research funder if there are any penalties for participating in strike action;  for example the ESRC states:

In the event of any industrial action which involves staff funded on an ESRC grant the RO must reduce staff costs for days not worked due to strike action at the grant reconciliation stage, ensuring that they comply with UKRI reconciliation terms and conditions and the usual virement rules for any underspend when completing the FES. In exceptional circumstances ESRC will consider requests for grant extensions where it can be demonstrated that industrial action has resulted in significant delays to the research.

If there are penalties imposed by the research body, research staff can access the national and local strike funds. 

Q. What should we tell ALs who aren’t in the Union but won’t be able to lead seminars as no lectures will be posted? My strike action forces my AL not to work, is their only option to claim from the strike fund or as they have a contract and are available to teach but Goldsmiths don’t need them because there’s nothing to teach (due to the strike), would Goldsmiths not paying them be a breach of their contract?

A. In the first instance, we encourage all course convenors to invite ALs to join UCU. ALs/GTTs who are enrolled PhD students and who are also contracted to teach at the higher education institution at which they are registered for their PhD studies can join the union for free: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10509/Future-of-the-profession-free-membership-FAQs

We would also encourage all ALs to participate in this strike as they make up around 40% of teaching staff in the university and the outcomes of this dispute will directly impact their working conditions.  

The union has challenged the university’s decision to deduct from ALs on the grounds that many will have no choice but to strike. 

Q. Now short course tutors have been given worker status will they be protected when they strike? 

A. If they are a member of UCU then yes. They will be able to participate in the strike and access strike funds. 

Q. If there are concessions in our local dispute, will the strike be called off? If so, what about the national disputes?  Similarly, if there are concessions at the national level, where does that leave us with our local strike action?

A. The terms of the local industrial dispute enable us to challenge compulsory redundancies and any further staffing cuts relating to SMT’s ‘Recovery Plan’. If concessions are put forward by SMT in line with the terms of the dispute, branch members will have an opportunity to democratically vote at a branch meeting about the future of the action. If, while the national dispute is ongoing, we reach a resolution at Goldsmiths and stop local industrial action, we will be bound by the national ballot to participate in whatever action is called for in the national disputes. If there are concessions at the national level and the national dispute is resolved, this would not affect the mandate of our local ballot to continue to engage in industrial action.

Q. What is your guidance regarding the online availability of pre-recorded lectures? Should they be taken down during the time of the strike? 

A. Members should avoid putting any material online for the period they are on strike only. If there is material already online covering this period, we advise members to take this material offline. 

Q. If you are invited to deliver a talk at another university during the strike period, should you decline the invitation? 

A. If the external commitments arise from your employment with the institution where the strike is taking place, then you should not fulfil them. However, as long as talks do not financially or reputationally benefit Goldsmiths, and the other university is not engaged in industrial action, the union would not prevent members from delivering talks at other universities.

Q. I’m on probation, can I still participate in the strike?

A. Yes, if a member of staff was dismissed as a result of taking part in the strike, it would be an automatic unfair dismissal. This would be the case even though the staff member is on probation. 

Q. How does the right to strike and unionise interact with Universal Credit- by which I mean, does the right to strike extend to people on Universal Credit too, or are they penalised by taking a voluntary cut to their income? 

A. Being a recipient of Universal Credit has no effect on your right to strike and to be in a union. 

Q. Is strike funding taxable income? Do we need to complete a tax return if we receive these funds (also relates to visa holders who are often not allowed to receive any income beyond their usual pay or who have restrictions in the types of income they can receive)? 

A. Some trade unions make payments to members who are on strike. Such payments are not earnings from the employment and are not taxable (see also AP1168). https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/employment-income-manual/eim06500 

Q. Is there help available for travel costs? To come in for the picket means an hour’s train travel for me before the 9am off peak kicks in so having fares refunded would be very useful.

A. GUCU does not have a dedicated fund for travel costs. But you can access local strike funds to support financial hardships caused by the strike.

Suggested Out of Office reply:

Please note that as a member of Goldsmiths UCU (GUCU)  I will be participating in strike action from 23 November until 13 December 2021.

Why is the strike happening? Members of GUCU (academic and professional staff) are taking strike action to prevent 52 academic and professional services staff being made redundant in management’s fire-and-rehire “restructure”. You can read more about the strike here.

Further information for students on the industrial action: FAQs 

How can students / colleagues support the strike action?

There a lots of things people can do to support staff including:  

  • Write to the Warden in support of staff; here is a template letter to the Warden that you can adapt 
  • Posting your support for the strike on your social media accounts and tagging the College and the GUCU;
  • Take the Student Solidarity Group Pledge;
  • Join the Sociology Student Solidarity group. Email Rachel Cummings (rcumm002@gold.ac.uk). Rachel will be happy to hear from you and there is a WhatsApp group you can join/Rachel can put you on. (dependant on dept)

More actions can be found on the Goldsmiths UCU website for the No Job Cuts resources for students and *this flyer is super succinct with all the info you need*.

Resources for students:

Wellbeing: https://www.gold.ac.uk/students/wellbeing/ 

Library Online Services: https://libguides.gold.ac.uk/media

Campus contacts: https://www.gold.ac.uk/students/contacts/Collated resources for students on the GUCU website