‘Grave Concern’ Over Goldsmiths Cuts

Cllr Alan Hall has joined thousands of academics, artists and local residents to express ‘grave concern’ at the plans for 52 staff redundancies and a restructuring at Goldsmiths University sited in New Cross within the London Borough of Lewisham.

The letter explains that Goldsmiths serves the needs of some of the most diverse communities in the UK, with a high proportion of its students coming from ethnic minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Cllr Alan Hall has been a long standing supporter of closer links with the prestigious higher education college and local residents. He said: “Goldsmiths is a part of Deptford’s and Lewisham’s history – it is an integral part of our rich diversity.”

Hit the headlines in The Observer

The publication of the letter hit headlines in The Observer recently. The national newspaper noted that new university job cuts fuel rising outrage on campuses claiming that Goldsmiths targets humanities faculties in round of redundancies.

The trade union – UCU – has started to ballot for industrial action over pay, pensions and conditions in the higher education sector nationally. This is looks like a winter discontent.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “University staff propped up the entire sector during the pandemic, but they are now being thanked with huge cuts to their pensions, unbearably high workloads, and another below-inflation pay offer – all whilst universities continue to generate a handsome income from tuition fees.

“The truth is that very well paid university leadership, who manage institutions with bigger turnovers than top football clubs, are choosing to exploit the goodwill of staff, repeatedly refusing to address the rampant use of casualised contracts, unsafe workloads or the shocking gender and ethnicity pay gap in the sector.

“Our members across the UK know that working in a university does not have to be like this and are clear that they are ready to take action to stand up for their dignity, defend pensions and win long overdue improvements to their pay and working conditions. There is still time for university chiefs to resolve a situation which is entirely of their own making, but they must return to negotiations and make credible offers.”

The Goldsmiths Letter in full.

We are academics, researchers and artists who have in various ways collaborated with members of the Goldsmiths community over the years or have been members of staff or students ourselves – or are simply acquainted with the College’s stellar reputation.

Goldsmiths, University of London, is internationally renowned for its progressive and critical education, its commitment to social justice and for hosting some of the most respected and creative scholars in the world. Its researchers, writers, musicians, performers, artists and media producers are world-leading; its alumni go on to outstanding achievements, in all areas.

Goldsmiths serves the needs of some of the most diverse communities in the UK, with a high proportion of its students coming from ethnic minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Currently, many of these students and their families live in boroughs hardest-hit by the Covid-19 crisis.

We are writing to express our utmost concern at the plans for radical restructuring, which threaten not only the jobs of staff members at a time of grave economic crisis, but also the very identity of Goldsmiths as we know it.

We were dismayed to read about the jobs already lost last year through voluntary severance, and are appalled now by the 52 redundancies recently announced for professional and academic staff.

We are distressed to discover that the detailed and crucial expertise of administrative staff central to departments is being disregarded and will be lost, through a misguided centralisation and drastic reduction of the number of posts.

We understand that academic redundancies are confined to the departments of English & Creative Writing and of History in this first round, but that there will be more. 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, home to leading, and often unique, research hubs such as the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies, the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, the Decadence Research Centre, the Centre for Comparative Literature, the Centre for the Study of the Balkans, the Centre of the Body, and the Centre for Queer History.

We are shocked to hear that the redundancies are being managed by external consultants with no disciplinary expertise, and who do not understand the immediate, middle- and long-term consequences of their decisions.

We hear with consternation that academics with high specialisation are under threat of redundancy even when their area of expertise is being retained – as though Black British and Caribbean Literature, Queer and Black British History, or Critical Theory were mere adornments on a portfolio rather than fields built upon rigorous training and deeply rooted scholarship. Presumably, their posts will be filled by cheaper, precarious staff; or staff with different expertise, asked to take on their (“redundant”) colleagues’ work. But a discipline is nothing without expertise; a degree is not a brand. Yet it appears that Goldsmiths’ management sees its core mission as no different from fast fashion, as a business built on precarity and the misguided flexibilization of a labour force rendered unable to develop long-term commitment to their discipline; in this, Senior Management show utter disregard for the integrity of the education they want to sell.

We are outraged that the Warden, Frances Corner, OBE, and Senior Management appear determined to pursue this damaging course of action instead of, with the same determination, proactively fundraising and lobbying the government for assistance as peer institutions have done – while also making a powerful case against the present ruinous and bankrupt system of funding for Higher Education, and in favour of the recognition of the immense contribution of the humanities and the arts to society and to the economy.

We call upon Frances Corner, upon Council, and upon Senior Management to halt the decimation of the departments of English & Creative Writing and of History, the redundancies within professional services and the current restructuring plans, and to find, in collaboration with their staff, more sustainable and more effective solutions that will protect not only the livelihood of their dedicated and loyal employees, but also the reputation of the institution.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

London Borough of Lewisham

Deptford Is Changing – Is it for the Better?

Deptford is changing – residents protest

The fact that ‘Deptford is Changing’ is not in dispute. Anita Strasser’s well researched and colourful book looks at today’s Deptford and the people who feel that they are not in control of their own destinies. The people who say that ‘this is not for us’ and feel that the social history, sense of community and cohesiveness of this super diverse part of London are not being recognised.

Deptford is known for being Henry VIII’s Royal Dockyard, the place where Russia’s Peter the Great came to learn shipbuilding and John Evelyn’s Sayes Court, his friend wood carver, Grinling Gibbons and Christopher Marlowe’s murder – he is buried in the historic St Nicholas’ Church in Deptford.

This maritime history led to a ship’s anchor being placed in Deptford High Street in 1988 becoming a famous and much loved symbolic landmark for many local Deptford residents. The book details to extraordinary lengths that campaigners had to go to get the anchor re-instated after Lewisham Council removed the landmark in 2013. Even when the Mayor of Lewisham had agreed to return the landmark a battle ensued with the resistance from the Executive Member at the time, Cllr Alan Smith being described as averse to it being installed in a position where it could actually be seen!

Interestingly, the book raises the prospect of a museum for Deptford and I can see with such a rich and varied history that this would be a very attractive proposition by the River Thames.

The influence of Goldsmith’s College is evident in the area. The Crossfields Estate is famed as the place where a radical arts and music scene that gained Deptford an almost legendary status in the 1970s and 80s. Local bands included Dire Straights, Squeeze, the Fabulous Poodles, The Realists, Electric Bluebirds and Mark Perry and his punk rock band Alternative TV. Members of the band Dire Straits lived on the estate and the band had its first gig in 1977 on the lawn behind Farrer House. A member of the group Squeeze also lived here. This is Deptford’s recent history as well.

Is that Jools Holland on the keyboards? – Alternative TV

Anita Strasser’s book has an admirable aim, to help work for and with Deptford’s diverse community – the very definition of a participatory democracy. It is well worth reading the incredible achievements of some wonderful South East Londoners.

Buy Deptford Is Changing here

Goldsmith’s Staff ‘Strike Back’

Goldsmith’s College staff, members of the University and College Union (UCU) took strike action between Monday 9th and Friday 14th March. The strike was called to address the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and rising costs for members, and on universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads. The hashtag is #UCUStrikesback

In addition, Goldsmith’s UCU have said: “We are currently in dispute with management in relation to a programme of cuts, centralisation and redundancies, “Evolving Goldsmiths”, that has been introduced without meaningful consultation. We are currently preparing for a local ballot for industrial action aimed at suspending the programme and encouraging discussions with staff and students on the future of our institution.”

Over 70 Professors have founded a Professors’ Forum at Goldsmiths on March 5th, 2020. Their founding statement says: “We established the Forum specifically in response to the complete lack of consultation with staff over the introduction of the Evolving Goldsmiths restructure plan. We are opposed to a mode of governance that does not recognise and include the diverse experiences of all staff in responding to current challenges.” The full document is here

Richard Burgon MP Jovan AH Goldsmiths UCU March 2020

The national  UCU has warned that they will ballot members after this wave of strikes if the dispute is not resolved. This is to ensure their branches could take action until the end of the academic year. Strike mandates are only legally valid for six months, this means those branches who walked out in November would need to secure a fresh mandate to be able to continue to take action after April 2020.

Victory for Cleaners at Goldsmiths College

The campaign group Justice for Cleaners at Goldsmiths College can claim victory after a meeting of the Goldsmiths College, University of London Governing Council on Thursday, 20th September decided to bring the cleaning staff back in house.

A Statement from from the Justice for Cleaners campaign read:

“Very pleased to announce that Goldsmiths management have confirmed today that cleaning staff will be brought inhouse. This victory has come from the tireless struggle and organisational genius of the cleaners. On 28th of June of this year, cleaners organised themselves to attend the university council meeting to confront council members about their poor working terms and conditions. It was out of this act of collective determination that the Justice for Cleaners Campaign formed. Today, three months later, we went with cleaners to the the same council meeting to hear that they would be brought in-house. Solidarity and thoughtful collective organising among workers at every level of the university with students is the most effective way of changing the university. The university is a workplace, if you are not happy with how things are running change it through workplace politics. This stuff works!
We will continue to support our colleagues during this process, making sure proper transparency of decision-making is delivered and that cleaners are meaningfully consulted throughout. 

Hasta la victoria siempre!”

 

The full statement from Goldsmiths College states:

“Goldsmiths’ Governing Council has today approved plans to bring cleaning provision in-house, and confirmed steps to harmonise the terms and conditions of cleaners with other Goldsmiths staff.

This will ensure that cleaners at Goldsmiths benefit from increased annual leave allowance, access to a better pension provision, and maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay in line with other Goldsmiths staff.

Furthermore, Council has agreed to increase the budgeted number of cleaning hours. This increased provision will give Goldsmiths flexibility to address some of the shift pattern issues that have arisen as a result of the recent restructuring of working arrangements.

Given the complexity involved in transitioning up to 100 cleaning staff into Goldsmiths, there will be a transition period of at least six months from 1 November 2018. During this period, intensive work will be undertaken to complete the TUPE legal process, to undertake appropriate consultation over changes to employment terms, to ensure payroll and employment records are handed over smoothly, to recruit in-house management and additional HR support, and to arrange supplies of materials and consumables. Goldsmiths understands that the process of insourcing such a large group of staff within comparable organisations has taken at least nine months, but SMT will be keen to ensure the process moves as quickly as possible, consistent with its duties to ensure a smooth handover for both the staff directly involved and the wider College.

Goldsmiths’ SMT will continue its discussions with cleaning staff and their UNISON representatives over these transitional arrangements and any residual issues relating to the recent shift pattern changes.”

 

 

The Justice for Cleaners campaign are calling for donations to the hardship fund to help in the transition. The link is here

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