University workers organised in UCU at Goldsmiths University are midway through three weeks of industrial action, which is running from 23 November through to 13 December.
UCU members are fighting against the gutting of administrative and teaching staff, who face mass redundancies. 52 jobs are currently on the line – 32 administrative staff, and 20 staff from the English & Creative Writing and History departments.
Goldsmiths senior management team (SMT) announced these redundancies without any prior consultation of the unions. These job cuts subsequently became terms for a loan that the university took out from Lloyds Bank and NatWest.
This essentially commits Goldsmiths SMT to making £4 million of staff cuts this academic year, and a further £2 million next year.
Disgracefully, the cuts were also announced to workers via an all-staff email.
Hey @LloydsBank and @NatWestGroup, how much profit are you hoping to make from the 52 planned job cuts at @GoldsmithsUoL? Students and staff are demanding #NoJobCuts! #goldstrike pic.twitter.com/5x3I3jOZuq— Goldsmiths UCU (@GoldsmithsUCU) November 23, 2021
The Goldsmiths UCU branch has come out boldly in fighting back against these redundancies, demanding full transparency of the university’s finances. This means opening the books to reveal the full terms of management’s deals with the banks, and how much profit they will make.
As a result of this militant approach, some redundancies have already been taken off the table. But Goldsmiths UCU plan to keep on struggling until all job cuts are off the table.
“Education should not be a corporate entity”
Day one of the strike was launched with a huge rally on campus. Goldsmiths Marxist Society attended this along with over 250 others.
This large attendance, combined with impassioned speeches, revealed both the determination of striking staff as well as strong solidarity from students.
Speeches – given by UCU activists and others from the students’ union and supporting unions – showed an increased radicalisation since the last round of strikes. There was a real sense of anger among all speakers.
One speaker pointed out that various sectors, not only education, have slowly withered after a decade-or-more of austerity and cuts. Another contribution iterated that it was their fourth time on a picket line at Goldsmiths in the past year-and-a-half.
In one particularly poignant speech, a history lecturer, referring to the attack on their department, remarked how: “Those who control the present control the future. But also those who control the present control the past.”
SIX things you can do to help our #Goldstrike dispute for #NoJobCuts at @GoldsmithsUoL ! (THREAD)— Goldsmiths UCU (@GoldsmithsUCU) November 9, 2021
1. DONATE to our strike fund to help us take sustained action https://t.co/snjqGptBHm 1/6 pic.twitter.com/UJ1VcS3ATE
One student said: “Education shouldn’t be compromised so they [the university board] can make ends meet”. And another described the strikes as “incredibly necessary”, noting that students being angry at lecturers only benefited those at the top – “The hand of the institution pushing people to think only of themselves”.
Most of all, there was a clear understanding of the systemic causes of the cuts, and the persistent marketisation of academia. As one student summarised: “Education should not be a corporate entity.”
The situation at Goldsmiths is a stark example of why the Marxist Student Federation is fighting for free education and against the marketisation of education. Solidarity between students and staff will be a vital tool in the campaign to save not just the university, but the whole higher education sector.
This fight to kick profit out of higher education must be linked to the struggle against capitalism – the system that is responsible for marketisation.
Interview with Nevenka Martin – a striking UCU member
Goldsmiths Marxist society interviewed a striking worker who is herself facing redundancy.
Nevenka Martin is the History Department Business Manager at Goldsmiths. Recently, she received a notice that her job had disappeared, and that she was not eligible for any other job at Goldsmiths.
We spoke to Nevenka to find out what was happening.
What’s happening at Goldsmiths?
This all started before the pandemic, with Goldsmiths looking at restructuring in order to cut costs. During the pandemic, it seemed that this idea had been pushed to the back. However, it reared its ugly head again once we were back to in person teaching.
They have now re-introduced the same idea under the title of ‘recovery’. In reality, this means the cutting of 52 jobs, 32 professional jobs and 20 academic staff, effectively folding the history department.
This is why we’re striking!
There has clearly been lots of solidarity from other UCU branches, other unions and the student body. How did Goldsmiths UCU create this?
This is a natural solidarity, which has come from an anger at these proposed changes. They would essentially get rid of the soul of Goldsmiths. Many of the courses that we could lose are the things which make Goldsmiths stand out. Everyone is, rightly, very angry about this. This is a big part of what has meant people have reached out.
We also have a very active UCU branch who have worked to counter the ideas put out by the Senior Management Team (SMT). Social media has been rife with discussion on what is happening at Goldsmiths.
So what happens next?
We are right at the start of this planned strike action. This is three weeks worth of action, and SMT are already scared. Already, two members of the SMT have resigned, and one more plans to resign in January. Their forces are depleting.
They are terrified of any opposition, as Goldsmiths likes to present itself as a progressive university. The solidarity today will have shown them that they cannot win!
If they have not backed down by the end of this action, we will go back to the UCU branch and discuss further action. These job cuts cannot be allowed to happen.
Goldsmiths management will not win!
View this post on Instagram