Industrial action

Information on industrial action at Goldsmiths including strike action and action short of a strike (ASOS).

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Information for students, 1 July 2022

We recognise that this is a worrying time for our students who are concerned about the impact industrial action may have on their learning outcomes and are putting in place measures to support our community. 

The College has emailed all students to share details of how we have assessed the levels of learning opportunities this year in relation to industrial action. We are currently testing our systems before sharing outcomes with students via their email. Because of this students can expect to begin hearing from the College during the week commencing 4 July, rather than 1 July as previously stated. 

Separately, the College has set out its response to the marking and assessment boycott including using Exceptional Academic Regulations to help determine results where a student’s full mark profile is not available because of the boycott.

Impact on learning experience

At the start of the academic year we committed to providing students as full a learning experience as is reasonably possible in line with Covid-19 guidelines. This included an expectation that in-person activities would take place on every programme. We have delivered on this promise in many instances since the start of term and plan to continue to offer in-person teaching throughout the academic year.

Industrial action may impact on our ability to deliver this promise to you. The College will continue to provide students with comprehensive support to minimise the impact of industrial action on your studies. We will also take all reasonable steps to help you achieve your learning outcomes and to enable the College to deliver educational services in accordance with your student contract.

Student contracts mention that some educational services may take place remotely or in person and we still expect this to be the case throughout this academic year.

Complaints about strikes

We have set out how the College will manage complaints made in relation to industrial action. In line with the latest guidance from the Office for Students (OfS). The College will carry out a comprehensive exercise to assess the potential impact of strikes on our ability to deliver the learning opportunities promised.

If alternative learning opportunities are not provided then we will assess what mitigation we might be able to put in place and whether you could be entitled to a refund of part of your tuition fees. This assessment will be made in line with guidance published from the OfS and your rights under consumer protection laws. We will start this process as soon as possible after the strikes end.

Read full details on how industrial action complaints will work.

Action short of a strike

ASOS means ‘action short of strike’ and is a form of industrial action.

ASOS began on 14 December with no set date for this to end within the industrial action mandate which lasts for six months.

Goldsmiths UCU has set out the following areas as being part of this round of ASOS:

  • Refusal of goodwill
  • Working to contract
  • Working within contractual hours
  • Refusing to cover for absent colleagues
  • Refusing to undertake voluntary activities or to attend non-contractual meetings
  • Refusing to share course materials
  • Removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action
  • Not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • Refusing to record teaching sessions 
  • Resignation from all voluntary committees
  • Refusal to participate in redundancy-related managerial processes

What the action is about

Local issues at Goldsmiths

This strike action and ASOS is in relation to the ballot over the College’s recovery programme. UNISON Goldsmiths members who were elligible have also voted in favour of strike action over this issue. 

National issues

UCU members at Goldsmiths also voted in favour of industrial action in two further ballots relating to national issues over the USS pension and working conditions.

Goldsmiths is among dozens of institutions with mandates for industrial action as a result of these ballots.

Background to the issues 

Our college is currently going through a period of change as we address a challenging financial position. All of the issues relating to the potential industrial action are underpinned by these financial concerns – this analysis sets out the College's financial position.

We have a clear plan to address a significant financial deficit which is an unsustainable financial gap for an institution of our size. As a first step to address the deficit we are working to make savings of £9 million in ongoing spending by 2023 through our Recovery Programme.

The reasons for the deficit are complex but there are some key factors that can be identified:

  • Goldsmiths has spent more money than it has brought in over recent years, with increasing costs set against a relatively static income
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has cost Goldsmiths £10 million – £6 million in lost revenue and £4 million in measures to support students including accommodation costs
  • The government is targeting institutions like Goldsmiths with funding cuts, including a recent cut of £2 million because of the nature of our academic offer and our London location
  • Our staff costs are high, having grown to over £80m a year, which is over 65% of our total income and is above the sector average

The size of the deficit means that no change is not an option. We have to make some difficult decisions about our how we spend our money so that students’ learning and experience comes first.

We recognise fully our responsibilities towards students and colleagues during what may be a challenging time and we are making two clear commitments to our community:

  • We are putting students’ learning and experience first, making sure that outcomes and ambitions are achieved
  • We are doing everything we can to support staff, including providing the best employment terms and conditions possible

Our investment in our employees

Goldsmiths recognises the contribution all of our colleagues make to our institution and in return we are committed to providing the best employment terms and conditions possible. These include:

  • Paying £12 million into staff pensions
  • Average mean salary for a full-time, permanent Goldsmiths employee: £47,262 
  • For a full-time permanent member of staff who belongs to the USS pension, the College pays in 10,000 a year on average
  • Up to 28 annual days’ leave every year, plus 6 closure days and Bank Holidays
  • Part of national pay agreements 
  • At 3.9% our median gender pay gap is well below the sector average of 13.9% and we are working towards pay equality
  • We are passionate about advancing equality and celebrating diversity. We hold a Bronze Athena SWAN award, and are a Stonewall Diversity Champion employer and a Disability Confident Employer
  • Goldsmiths has committed to paying at least the London Living Wage since 2011
  • In response to student and staff campaigns, we brought our cleaning and security colleagues in-house
  • Workload allocation is the responsibility of individual departments and teams and is not managed centrally
  • We provide free confidential, 24/7 access to a Staff Assistance Programme, Staff Counsellor and also offer a wide range of wellbeing support

The process behind the industrial action

Goldsmiths respects the rights of our staff to withdraw their labour as part of formal employment disputes and understands that the decision to do so is never taken lightly – with colleagues understandably reluctant to disrupt the teaching and learning experiences of our students.

In October 2021 members of UCU at Goldsmiths and at universities across the country were balloted over industrial action relating to the USS pension and pay, casualisation, workload and equalities.

Separately, members of UCU at Goldsmiths were also balloted for industrial action over the College's Recovery Programme.

The ballots took place on a disaggregated basis – ie as separate votes at individual institutions' UCU branches rather than as a national, aggregated vote among all UCU members on a national basis. 

All three ballots opened on 18 October and closed on 4 November, with the results showing: 

  • UCU members at Goldsmiths voted in favour of industrial action over the USS pension, which was part of a national disagregated ballot
  • UCU members at Goldsmiths voted in favour of industrial action over the Recovery Programme, which was a separate ballot for our local branch only
  • UCU mmbers at Goldsmiths voted in favour of industrial action over pay, casualisation, workload and inequalities, which was part of a national disagregated ballot

Goldsmiths appealed to UCU members at the College not to vote in favour of industrial action given the effect it would likely have on our students’ learning and experience, particularly after the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The mandate for industrial action ends in May 2022 with UCU reballoting for a further mandate on both national and local disputes. 

Separately, staff who are members of UNISON Goldsmiths have also participated in strike action after voting in favour of such action. 

Information for staff 

Should industrial action take place colleagues are reminded:

  • Anyone participating in industrial action must declare it to Goldsmiths
  • Goldsmiths will take appropriate action in response to participation in industrial action – including withholding of pay in line with withdrawal of labour

Further information for staff, including details of withholding of pay and the strike declaration form, is on Goldmine.

With strike action a possibility, colleagues should read and reflect on the Picketing Code of Practice – and remain mindful of the Goldsmiths community's shared values of empathy and respect.

Published 19 October 2021

Last updated 01 July 2022