Workers at Goldsmiths university launched a 15 day-strike on Tuesday against bosses’ plans to slash jobs—at the behest of Lloyds and Natwest banks.
Hundreds of striking UCU union members, students and supporters rallied outside the south London university to protest against “restructuring” plans that would axe 52 jobs. Management plans to make redundant 32 professional services workers and 20 academics in the English, creative writing and history department.
Paula, who works in professional services in the sociology department, told Socialist Worker that she received an email saying her job would be “deleted”. “We’ve gone through a lot in professional services, especially in the last two years,” she explained. “It’s been horrid.
“Staff have left, and management hasn’t replaced them, which means larger workloads for those who stay.
“I’m off sick currently, but I was working 15-hour days, and working weekends. So to get an email using language like ‘deleted’ was devastating.”
Goldsmiths UCU says “senior management also claims these cuts are required by the banks due to a deal that was struck with Lloyds Bank and Natwest bank”. This was “negotiated by the consultancy firm KPMG” and committed bosses “to £4 million of staff cuts this year followed by £2 million next year”.
UCU Goldsmiths branch co-president Tara Povey told the crowd, “For months and months we have gone over every aspect of the redundancies. Management couldn’t give us a reason for them, but have made secret deals behind our back and didn’t consult staff or students about what they were trying to do.
“The financial rationale behind what they are doing is complete bullshit. They never had any financial rationale.”
Tara added that management had attempted to split professional services staff and academic staff. “They tried to separate the disputes, put them on different timelines and with different terms,” she said. “But we said no to this—we stand together.”
Sabbu was one of the hundreds of students who joined the protest to show solidarity with their lecturers. “I spent my first year of university on Zoom,” she told Socialist Worker. “I received brilliant support from my lecturers in difficult circumstances.
“After looking at each other through a screen for a year, it felt great that lecturers remembered us. To hear that staff in the English department could be made redundant makes me think the future is fragile for those who work in the humanities.”
One speaker said it was insulting for Goldsmiths to boast on Twitter that it was the only university to offer a course on black British history. The university has threatened redundancies on the course.
Students held up signs that read, “Are you not ashamed?” and, “So much for decolonising Goldsmiths.”
Much of the anger at the protest was directed at the Warden of Goldsmiths, Frances Corner—who, students and workers say, has tried to avoid blame for cuts.
Tara told Socialist Worker, “Frances Corner was at University of the Arts London before Goldsmiths. These figures move around to different institutions, and they pick up tricks about how to force through restructuring.
“But workers also pick up tips from those at other universities as well.
“We’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the dispute at Royal College of Art, Liverpool and Chester University.”
Tara said it was important that local disputes are connected to the national disputes over pension, pay, casualisation and inequalities. “Goldsmiths UCU voted in unprecedented numbers to take action over the four fights and the USS pension scheme along with our local dispute,” she said.
“We had over a 70 percent turnout on all of the ballots. Our local dispute is a struggle against management, but attacks like this are part of a broader assault on higher education.”
Disputes such as Goldsmiths, Liverpool and the Royal College of Art serve as an inspiration for UCU members who will head to the picket lines from 1 to 3 December. Building solidarity with these battles will make strikes across Britain stronger.