Goldsmiths staff embark on three-week strike in protest over redundancies

Students holding banners supporting the action. Pic: Goldsmiths UCU

Lecturers and administrative staff at Goldsmiths in Lewisham are going on a three-week strike tomorrow in protest at redundancies planned by the university.

The staff, members of the University and College Union will go on strike for 15 working days, starting tomorrow until December 13.

The strike decision was taken after 87% of Goldsmiths UCU members voted in favour of industrial action early this month.

Goldsmiths is planning to make 52 members of staff redundant by next Spring. If the plan goes ahead, 20 academics across the departments of English & Creative Writing and History and 32 administrative staff will risk losing their jobs.

Redundancies are part of the Goldsmiths “recovery plan,” which aims to turn a £14 million deficit into surplus in just one year by cutting jobs and reducing expenditures. It is also part of the university’s loan agreements with NatWest and Lloyds, which will result in a further £2 million worth of cuts the following year.

In a statement, the Union said: “This is a bad plan, both in terms of the financial impacts and the injustice of the proposed cuts themselves.” These cuts, they argue, and their impact on the level of education the university has to offer will set Goldsmiths “in a spiral of decline.”

“If they go ahead, these cuts will irremediably damage research capacity, academic practices and cultures, the student experience as well as the viability of important and world-renowned departments,” says an open letter signed by over 4,000 people across the UK.

“This is a radical and dramatic attack [to our institution],” said Jacob Mukherjee, co-secretary at Goldsmiths UCU during a student-staff meeting last Wednesday. “This is a strike, a full strike. UCU members will not be working, which means in most cases, classes and tutorials will be cancelled and we will not be on our work e-mails.”

Students will lose valuable teaching hours and will not be able to attend workshops unless told otherwise. Most departments have postponed deadlines for assessed coursework and tutorials will not be taking place.
“But I want to emphasise that although the normal business of the university will cease during that period, learning will continue and we will still be around,” said Mukherjee.

Pickets are expected outside the Richard Hoggart Building on New Cross Road tomorrow. Students who want to show their support are encouraged to visit the picket line during those hours.

Student wellbeing services, prayer rooms and the international student office will not be picketed. Individual study spaces will also remain open;

“All I would like to see is us to stick together as staff and students… I truly believe that our actions will have an impact and that it will be all the better for our jobs and our conditions, the conditions of your learning and the integrity of your degrees,” said Des Freedman, head of the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies, the biggest in the college.

Students are also encouraged to engage in a series of Teach Outs. These are open spaces for students and staff to debate current issues in a less academic setting.

The full list of teach outs is available at this link.

In response to the strike, Goldsmiths issued this statement on their website: “Our college is currently going through a period of change as we address a challenging financial position. All of the issues relating to the potential industrial action are underpinned by these financial concerns.”

“The size of the deficit means that no change is not an option. We have to make some difficult decisions about how we spend our money so that students’ learning and experience comes first.”

“Goldsmiths’ senior leadership appealed to colleagues at Goldsmiths not to vote in favour of industrial action, given the significant effect any such action could have on our students’ learning and experience. This request is further underlined by the considerable impact of the pandemic over the previous two academic years and into this academic year.”

“Goldsmiths respects the rights of our staff to withdraw their labour as part of formal employment disputes and understands that the decision to do so is never taken lightly – with colleagues understandably reluctant to disrupt the teaching and learning experiences of our students.”

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