Information on industrial action at Goldsmiths.
Primary page content
Industrial action including strike action is taking place at 150 universities across the UK this academic year, as part of national disputes over pay and working conditions and pensions. This includes at Goldsmiths.
Members of the University and College Union (UCU), the largest staff trade union in higher education, voted in favour of industrial action in Autumn 2022 and have a legal mandate to take action until 20 April 2023.
Guidance for students
Strike action took place on the following dates in Spring term:
- Wednesday 1 February
- Thursday 9 and Friday 10 February
- Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 February
- Wednesday 15, Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March
- Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 March
Strike action was called off for the weeks beginning 20 and 27 February, with all scheduled learning activity expected to go ahead as planned.
In Autumn term, Goldsmiths saw strike action take place as part of the national disputes on 24, 25 and 30 November.
UCU has a legal right to take industrial action – including strike action and action short of a strike – under the current mandate until 20 April 2023.
Given this, Goldsmiths is not planning to consider complaints related to this period of industrial action until the mandate has concluded, to allow us to fairly take into account all and any impact on students which may occur.
Goldsmiths will contact all students in due course with updates over further information in relation to complaints.
If you wish to send a message to senior staff at Goldsmiths please email wardensoffice (@gold.ac.uk)
Action short of a strike
Alongside strike action, UCU members are also taking part in action short of a strike (ASOS) which started on Wednesday 23 November and will run for the length of this period of industrial action.
Members of UCU taking action short of a strike will work on their usual working days but may take one or more of the following actions during the ASOS period:
- working to contract
- not covering for absent colleagues
- not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
- not sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of strike action
- not undertaking any voluntary activities
Latest on national negotiations
Negotiations over the disputes are held on a national basis, between representative groups for universities and UCU and other higher education staff unions including UNISON.
In the dispute over pay and working conditions, universities including Goldsmiths are represented by UCEA.
In the dispute over pensions, universities including Goldsmiths are represented by Universities UK.
Both disputes have seen positive progress following talks.
On pay, an uplift of between 8% and 5% has been awarded to staff. While this is not recognised by the unions, part of the award is being implemented early to help university staff during the cost of living crisis and is back-dated to 1 February 2023.
On working conditions, progress is being made in negotiations over a review of the UK HE pay spine, workload, contract types and equality pay gaps.
On pensions, an offer has been made to restore benefits for members who belong to the USS pension.
Goldsmiths’ position on the issues
This is a national dispute between UCU and the sector as a whole rather than individual universities. However, the position of individual institutions is important.
Goldsmiths believe our staff deserve the best pay and pensions we can afford and the best working conditions we can provide. Unlike some other universities, we have never been a wealthy institution and we invest any surplus in supporting the student experience, teaching and the creation of new knowledge.
Unfortunately, the pandemic and central government cuts put considerable extra pressure on our finances. We had to make some difficult decisions to put us back onto a stable financial footing, to help guarantee our future and to make £9m in ongoing savings by the end of financial year 2022-23.
Our plan is progressing: we have made £6 million in savings so far with a further £3m to make this academic year. This financial position fundamentally informs our ability to meet requests made over pay and pensions.
Employment facts about Goldsmiths
- Average mean salary for a full-time, permanent Goldsmiths employee: £47,262, above the average London wage based on Office for National Statistics data
- The College contributes £12 million a year to staff pensions, including to a defined benefit scheme still open to new members
- Up to 28 annual days’ leave every year, plus six closure days as well as Bank Holidays
- Three-quarters of our academic staff are permanent
- We do not use zero-hours contracts
- Part of national pay agreements
- At 4.2% our median gender pay gap is well below the sector average of 16.2% and we are working towards pay equality
- Our median ethnicity pay gap is 16.4%. We recognise this is not good enough and are putting in place actions to directly address this and the underlying issues behind such inequality
- Goldsmiths has committed to paying at least the London Living Wage since 2011
- The College responded to student and staff campaigns by bringing cleaning and security colleagues in-house
- We provide free confidential, 24/7 access to a Staff Assistance Programme, Staff Counsellor and also offer a wide range of wellbeing support
- We are working on a number of initiatives to support staff and students with the current cost of living crisis, including putting an additional £100k in the student hardship fund
Goldsmiths spent some £90.4 million on staff costs in academic year 2020-21, the latest year for which audited accounts are available. This £90.4 million accounts for 72% of our overall income and is by far our biggest outgoing.
Of this, the main contributions are accounted for with £66.1 million on salaries with £12.1 million on employer pension contributions and £6.4 million on social security costs.
Every year universities use what is called collective bargaining to help decide how much pay rises will be across the sector.
Collective bargaining is a way to make sure pay rises are equal across higher education. It sees a group called UCEA represent universities in negotiations with UCU over levels of pay.
This year, lower-paid staff will receive a 9% pay-rise with the remainder getting a 3% pay-rise.
Financial volatility including high inflation has led to UCU rejecting this pay offer. Despite the best efforts of both sides a compromise has not been reached as yet, leading to UCU balloting its members for industrial action over pay.
Goldsmiths invested £12.1 million to staff pensions in the last year, with £10 million of this in contributions to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) which is the main pension scheme in the UK university sector.
The USS is the largest private pension scheme in the UK, meaning it is not like the pension for state school teachers which is guaranteed by public money.
Instead, the USS relies on a multi-billion pound funding pot to ensure that the pensions promises made to members of the scheme can be paid now and in the future.
Recent financial volatility means there have been concerns over the levels of funding for the scheme, with a financial health check showing a shortfall of £14billion between the level of funding and the pensions commitments made to members.
As a result of this, changes were made to the scheme to ensure it remained sustainable. Unfortunately, in exchange for helping secure the future of the scheme the changes mean that members now receive lower benefits than before.
The valuable defined benefit element has been kept – defined benefit pensions are considered the gold-standard of retirement savings with a guaranteed income. The USS is one of the few pensions schemes in the UK to have a defined benefit element which is still open to new members joining the scheme.
Recent movement in global and national finances, including higher interest rates, has seen the funding position of the scheme improve. This has led to calls to reverse the recent changes but there are still concerns over how ongoing financial instability could further impact the scheme.
Goldsmiths has always said that the door should be left open to reversing the changes, should the funding position improve on a sustained basis. See our USS consultation response 21 May 2021 (PDF).
Decisions over the USS pension are made on a sector-wide basis, as with pay, with Universities UK representing universities in discussions with UCU.
Goldsmiths has a clear set of values with social and racial justice and equity key to us as an institution and for our community of students and staff. We work hard to put these values into action as an employer.
We do not use zero-hour contracts and the number of academic staff who have permanent contracts is above figures released nationally by UCU. In addition to this, we offer generous general working terms especially when compared to private sector allowance – with significant annual leave allowance and we are a London Living Wage employer.
We recognise that gender and ethnicity pay disparities are not good enough and we are working hard to address these issues.
Last updated 22 March 2023
9 November 2022 - Updated with information about action short of a strike in 2022-23
8 November 2022 - Updated with confirmed dates of UCU strike action
4 November 2022 - Updated with information following UCU HEC meeting
25 October 2022 - New page published for potential UCU action in 2022-23
2 November 2022 – Added detail about Goldsmiths and our facilities remaining open during any industrial action, and campus study and accommodation
18 November 2022 – Strike guidance added
8pm, 18 November 2022 – Clarification over use of VLE
30 November 2022 – Updated to reflect conclusion of November strike days
13 January 2023 – Added details of 18 strike days in Spring term, marking and assessment boycott and reballot seeking further mandate
18 January 2023 – Added 1 February strike date and date for announcement of further strikes
24 January 2023 – Added details for remaining strike dates
17 February 2023 – Added details of pause in strikes
1 March 2023 – Added additional strike day on 15 March
17 March 2023 - Removed the section announcing the additional day as it had passed
22 March 2023 – Updated page to reflect conclusion of strike days in Spring term