FAQ for students on continued industrial action in Term 2

Here is our previous FAQ addressing what the action is about:https://goldsmithsucu.org/2021/11/02/faq-for-students-on-industrial-action-at-goldsmiths/

Is the strike going to continue into next term? 

The staff union (GUCU) had a branch meeting on Monday the 6th of December to decide on the future of the current strike action. In this meeting, the staff union committed to escalating the strike into next term, unless SMT agrees to the union’s demands. This commitment includes a further three weeks of strike action in the second term. The vote that took place on the 6th of December allows the union and its membership to plan for this escalation, and allows GUCU members time to meet and plan with students and to coordinate with the national action and the union for professional services staff on campus (UNISON). 

The current period of strike action will end on the 13th of December as planned. Teaching resumes from Tuesday until the end of term (Friday the 17th of December). 

Why can’t the staff union (GUCU) tell us now when strike action is going to take place next term?

The staff union has been in negotiations with the Senior Management Team (SMT) for months, but the union has also been working closely with UNISON, the union for campus facilities workers (security guards, cleaners) and professional services staff. Most of the redundancies proposed by SMT impact professional services staff across a number of academic departments and UNISON and GUCU have been trying to align their struggles against SMT’s redundancy plan. At the moment, UNISON is organising its members and has held an indicative ballot to see whether or not its members want to strike. The ballot period will run between 6-13 December. GUCU is waiting for the results of this ballot and for UNISON to decide on a course of action because joint action with UNISON is the strongest position from which to resist the redundancies and SMT’s proposed restructure. Simply put, GUCU is waiting for the results of UNISON’s ballot before deciding if and when strike action should take place in the second term. We are very hopeful that SMT will be forced to drop the redundancies if faced with the threat of both campus unions taking strike action at the same time. Together, UCU and Unison represent nearly all staff on campus, and it would be an unprecedented move for both trade unions in a university to take joint action. Therefore, it would be in SMT’s interests to prevent this from happening at all costs. 

How long is the next strike period going to be?

The details and exact timings of further strike action will be decided in the new year. For now the length and timing of the strike is still under discussion by the staff union. This is because staff union members need time to meet and plan with students and to coordinate with the national action and the union for professional services staff on campus (UNISON). The length of the next strike period is also largely dependent on the Senior Management Team’s (SMT) willingness to respond to the staff union’s demands. 

Is this a done deal?

SMT has the power to stop further strike action at any time by coming to an agreement with staff union (GUCU). Strike action is something that the union escalates to, it is never the first step of action. However, the union’s demands have yet to be taken seriously by SMT so management have left the union with no choice but to plan for another strike period in the second term. The amendment that was passed by the union on the 6th of December is a commitment to planning for further strike action, but this is avoidable if SMT takes the unions demands on board. 

Why is this happening?

The staff union has been negotiating with the SMT for months and during the whole of this strike period in order to come to an agreement and stop strike action. After reviewing the college’s finances and negotiating with SMT, GUCU’s current position is that the restructure and the proposed redundancies are not financially necessary in order to make up the college’s deficit. In other words, SMT doesn’t need to fire 52 people in order to fix college finances. This is a choice they are making. The 52 redundancies that the staff union is currently resisting are the first of several ‘tranches’ of upheaval promised by SMT so it is vital that we continue to resist the restructure. Stopping strike action now would put us back to square one and reverse all the incredible hard work that has been done by students, sabbatical officers, those working in the teachout programme and the negotiation team. We need to keep the possibility of further action to keep pressure up while SMT considers their next move, and keep building on all the work that has been done over the past few months by students, staff, sabbatical officers and organisers. 

What other ways are GUCU fighting redundancies?

The staff union has also committed to taking steps towards preparing a campaign of greylisting Goldsmiths over SMT’s plans for job cuts and anti-union activities. Academic boycotts, often referred to as “greylisting” campaigns, involve encouraging speakers, researchers, external examiners and others from outside an institution to refuse to participate in initiatives or events at, or refuse to take paid roles within the institution. Greylisting / an academic boycott is another form of escalation in the current dispute, alongside further strike action, an assessment boycott and refusal of face to face teaching. GUCU has started this campaign by requesting UCU (the national union body) to apply an academic boycott to Goldsmiths, University of London. The greylisting campaign also provides new avenues for students and staff to organise against SMT’s plans for job cuts by encouraging speakers and researchers to boycott Goldsmiths events and activities. 

How will further industrial action impact me/my studies? 

Much like the strike action of 2021, classes led by union members will not take place and striking staff and students will be present on the picket line and in teachouts. Teachouts are collaborative spaces for engaging with vital and important issues that impact us all. They are non-hierarchical spaces for exchange, consciousness raising, and organising that are facilitated by staff and students. We call them teachouts as they leave behind the university classroom. These take place in the SU and in other builds near the main Goldsmiths campus such as the CCA and Laurie Grove. For more information on teachouts and to have a look at what spaces were created by students and for students see the teachout website for the 2021 winter strikes.  We welcome all students to participate and organise in these spaces!

For more information on access to campus and the impact of the strike on teaching see here. 

Where do I go to have any further questions answered?

The staff union and the student union will organise an open assembly with students on the 13th of December at 2pm online. All are welcome to join the assembly through this link: https://tinyurl.com/STRIKEASSEMBLY. The sabbatical officers, the GUCU presidents and union members involved in student-staff solidarity work will be present to answer any questions and listen to any concerns or worries that you might have.