Fresh round of strikes scheduled over staff redundancies at Goldsmiths

Picket line during the December strike Pic: Valentina Colo

A further ten-days of strike action has been confirmed by lecturers and administrative staff at Goldsmiths, in New Cross in a continuing battle over plans for 46 staff redundancies.

At a meeting of the local branch of the University and College Union, 87 per cent of members present voted for an escalating strike next month and early March

The strike will be staggered over three weeks: on February 7, 8,, 16 -18 and February 28 to March 4.

This latest move follows the three weeks of strike action before Christmas and a global academic boycott of the university, which is part of the University of London, after senior management rejected counterproposals set forward by staff.

Goldsmiths branch of the UCU said in a statement: “In spite of three weeks of strike action last term and active support from students and sabbatical officers, senior management team remain committed to redundancies, which could result in up to 46 full time positions being cut from academic and administrative staffing.

“Although our collective efforts have pushed back SMT’s timeline and protected jobs until now, the outcome of the collective consultation process has been a rejection of all the counterproposals for savings presented by staff and campus trade unions. This leaves the union with no choice but to escalate the dispute by declaring its intention to strike again.”

Senior management could stop the strike action at any time if an agreement is made with Goldsmiths UCU, said the union.

Goldsmiths is planning the 46 redundancies as the first tranche of change suggested by the university’s ‘recovery plan’ to restructure and save £9 million by 2023. The union has insisted these redundancies are based on ideological rather than financial motives.

Courses in the departments of History and English and Creative Writing are at serious risk, while administrative cuts to staff in timetabling and student support threatens students’ university experience.

A spokesperson for Goldsmiths said: “Overall, Goldsmiths needs to save £9 million in ongoing spend over the next two years to put the College back on a sustainable financial footing. Unfortunately, our English and Creative Writing and History departments have been unable to meet their savings targets, leaving a joint shortfall of £841,000.”

Goldsmiths management say with staff costs of £90.4 million a year and income having fallen 4.8 per cent in the last two years, it is vital to make further savings to reduce the deficit and move back to a sustainable financial footing.

The college has repeated its earlier offer to engage in talks at ACAS: “None of the submissions to our recent collective consultation suggested viable alternative proposals which would deliver the savings needed by 2023.”

“Goldsmiths has repeatedly invited Goldsmiths UCU to join the College at ACAS for talks with no pre-conditions on either side to help find a shared way forward. So far this offer has been rejected but we remain ready to meet.”

Several students have taken to Twitter to express solidarity with staff and support the strikes:

28-year-old Edie Holder, a student from the Gold Fees Strike group, told Eastlondonlines: “As students we are acutely aware of how much we pay in fees, and how much the university depends on us for income. We in turn depend on staff, so SMTs total disregard for both staff and students, along with their attempt to undermine the very values that are integral to Goldsmiths, is appalling.

“We stand in full solidarity with the UCU and will continue to withhold our fees until we have assurances that we will receive our value for money. That value lies entirely with the members of staff that they are threatening with redundancy.”

The library, prayer room, student services, art studios, practice rooms and the student union will not be affected by the picket line and students are encouraged to continue accessing these services.

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