‘Picket line full of power’: Goldsmiths UCU members continue to fight for change

Pro-strike Posters outside Richard Hoggart Building, University of Goldsmiths. Pic: Imogen Adam

Members of Goldsmiths UCU joined 150 other universities across the UK in striking today, due to a national ongoing dispute over pay, pensions, work conditions, and contract types.

The UCU has confirmed that a total of 70,000 members have walked out during this strike period, which began on February 1.

Today marks the second day of strikes since they resumed on March 15.

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), located in East London, was also striking today, in solidarity with UCU members.


University students, lecturers, and UCU members were present at today’s event to support the strikes, with the majority of speeches focusing on the themes of anti-fascism and celebrating diversity.

Rehana Zaman, a fine art lecturer, told ELL: “We organised this anti-fascist focused picket line here today because we are aware that on a national and local level, there has been a meeting point of some really disturbing shifts and events. For example, the so-called illegal migrant bill that is being debated in parliament this week and the backlash around Gary Lineker’s response to that. The neo-facist presence around drag story time in Dulwich and the transphobic graffiti appearing on campus and the warden’s shambolic response to that.

”We really felt that there’s a correlation between whats happening at a state level and what’s happening locally, and how that connects to a long history of incredible anti-fascist activism we really wanted to give space to and how that connects to anti immigrant rhetoric and transphobia. We felt like we needed space on the picket to make that loud and clear. We [UCU] are a union that believes this is one of our priorities and aren’t marginal issues that get relegated to the sidelines. This is something that drives us as organisers and activists.”

Paul Halliday, a photography and urban cultures lecturer, made a speech about his experiences growing up in the area and working for Goldsmiths: “We’ve all seen the college change very significantly and levels of what has been described as corporate violence, across the sector.”

These university strikes come at a time of mass disruption; as doctors, teachers and transport workers are staging walk-outs across the country as part of industrial action.

The picket line event was called off at an earlier time of 12 pm, following confirmation of an emergency UCU meeting. This comes after the news that UCU negotiators are making breakthrough negotiations with employers.

Joe Newman, a UCU member and picket supervisor, told ELL: “We would normally be present on the picket line from 9 am till 1 pm, but today we are packing up early and leaving at 12 pm due to an emergency branch meeting concerning negotiations.”

Goldsmiths UCU later tweeted that it’s urging union members to reject the offer by university bosses.

Next week’s strike dates are still due to take place as it stands.

Gammorah Britton Gibson, a global political economy student, told ELL: “Student solidarity is the basis of how we build a quality education that we deserve. We are embedded in a class struggle against the Goldsmiths institution and government that want to fight for the elite.

“Solidarity is the antidote and coming here has highlighted the importance of community and makes you feel like you can help to change society.”

National university strikes are set to continue until Wednesday, March 22. If they are not called off early, it will be the biggest strike period ever to hit UK university campuses.

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