Industrial action, January 2021 - May 2021

Industrial action at Goldsmiths has been brought to a close after Goldsmiths UCU and the Senior Management Team worked together closely to resolve the dispute.

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This page has been archived as a record of what was published around industrial action between January and May 2021.

Members of GUCU voted to end action short of a strike by accepting a set of six commitments which were co-produced by negotiating teams from GUCU executive and SMT.

Among the commitments are pledges that no staff will leave the College under compulsory redundancy terms before 28 February 2022 as a result of any cost-saving measures related to the Recovery process and ringfencing of budget for teaching.

March commitments

  1. No staff will leave the College under compulsory redundancy terms before 28th February 2022 as a result of any cost-saving measure related to the Recovery process. Departmental budgets for ALs will not fall below 95% of the levels set for 2020/21 during this period, on the understanding that there will be assimilation of AL staff (as per paragraph 3 below). All staff on fixed-term contracts will be fully consulted in line with the College’s Managing Fixed Term Contracts Policy. The Equalities Impact of these decisions will be monitored through quarterly reporting to JNCC and HREC.
  2. We will consult with UCU colleagues on the terms of any future VS scheme after the current scheme closes on 23rd March 2021.
  3. The Assimilation Agreement will be implemented in a consistent and transparent way across all departments in the College. Work to ensure this (in line with the Operationalisation Agreement) will commence early March 2021 and will be concluded by 31st May 2021 for implementation of recommendations in time for the 2021/22 academic year with joint oversight with UCU. The panel composed under point 6 below will, as part of its task of monitoring the implementation of these commitments, regularly review the operationalisation/application of the Assimilation Agreement. Complaints made by staff members about any misapplication of the Assimilation Agreement will be assessed through the grievance procedures. Application of the Grievance Policy in this regard will ensure complaints are progressed within a reasonable timescale (with the first formal meeting taking place within ten days of the date of the grievance being received, information gathering completed within 20 days, and the outcome being confirmed within 10 days of the outcome meeting), and that the complainant has the right of representation and the right to appeal. A quarterly report will be provided on an anonymous basis to JNCC and HREC on cases received and the outcomes.
  4. We will work with UCU colleagues to scope out, undertake and deliver a consistent and transparent approach to reasonable and fair workload allocation across the College which is supportive of career development objectives. This work will conclude by 28th February 2022 to support the curriculum review and enable its use in workload allocation from the 2022/23 academic session.
  5. We will ensure that UCU colleagues are informed of and consulted on the development of all proposals relating to the terms and conditions of their members throughout the Recovery process. We will undertake an assessment of the potential equalities impact on all colleagues as an integral part of all elements of the Recovery Plan at every stage of its implementation. We will carry out Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) in line with the commitments in our Organisational Change Policy. Where an EIA identifies a disproportionate impact on a particular protected group we will put explicit preventative and/or mitigating measures in place. We will seek to avoid any processes or procedures that have a disproportionate impact on a particular group.
  6. UCU and Senior Management will meet at least monthly to ensure delivery of the above commitments and discuss any other aspects of the Recovery Plan with implications for staff members’ terms and conditions. For each of these meetings, HR will provide GUCU with figures for staff in Grades 1-10 detailing as far as possible and within the requirements of data protection legislation the number of contracts coming to an end in the subsequent 3-month period, broken down according to protected characteristics including gender, race, disability and age. These meetings will involve regular updates on any proposed redundancy measures, and will consider and seek to resolve issues relating to the implementation of any of the above commitments, including reviewing the application of the Assimilation Agreement, the carrying out of adequate EIAs and steps to mitigate against equalities impacts of decisions. Where necessary this panel will agree on statements of guidance to be issued to relevant staff (e.g. Department Management Teams, HR Consultants) on general and specific applications of the Goldsmiths policy documents cited in these commitments.

Issued 5 March 2021, amended 21 March 2021.

GUCU and SMT have worked together to co-produce a statement which recognises the end of the dispute and the shared work which went into reaching an agreement. The joint statement below sets out a further shared commitment on behalf of GUCU and SMT on a return to work which supports students and staff.

Agreement between SMT and GUCU, 30 April 2021

In agreeing a resolution to GUCU’s dispute with the College over planned redundancies and staff cost control measures, SMT and GUCU officers share a commitment to minimising any further detriment to students arising from the dispute, and to doing everything possible to enable the successful and timely conclusion of this academic year’s assessments and progressions processes.

At the same time, we recognise that there will be a backlog of incomplete marking, consequent exams processes, and in some cases delays in setting exam papers and other assessment materials. We recognise that boycotted marking cannot be completed instantly, that a large number of teaching staff will have just received a Spring Term marking load in addition to existing backlogs from the Autumn Term, and that even if staff put in extra hours, they will need time to get through all marking without neglecting their other core responsibilities.

Departmental management teams and line managers are asked to support staff in determining these priorities and completing the marking according to a timetable that allows key processes to take place. In some cases, this may require temporary adjustments to workload, which should be made in consultation with marking staff. Where associate lecturers have been contracted to deliver marking that has been delayed, any outstanding payments due will be made on completion of the marking.

All staff who have participated in the boycott are asked to work with their line managers to set priorities around marking geared towards the adequate and effective completion of all assessment and progression processes, e.g. in meeting key deadlines relating to the successful completion of Exam Boards. It may be necessary for staff to prioritise some cohorts over others. Minimising detriment to any particular group of students, taking into account the possible severity of such detriment, and enabling completion and progression, should guide such prioritising.

It is expected that for members who begin marking scripts after the resolution of the industrial action, timelines required for delivering feedback and marks will largely be in accordance with the Assessment Feedback Policy (PDF). Where it is reasonable, marking may be completed sooner, especially in cases where grades are urgently required by students or where delays would place additional pressure on administrative staff. Conversely, there may be cases in which it takes longer to process marking on a particular assessment, and staff should not face any negative outcomes if re-agreed workload and teaching commitments require them to submit grades after the five-week period generally recognised as a maximum in the Feedback Policy. Work should be sequenced to ensure that all existing Exam Board timings are met and that decisions are released to students against the timeline published.

Line managers and marking staff are asked to ensure the following recommendation in particular in the Feedback Policy is applied: “Departments should work with staff to identify periods of intense workload, taking into account other activities (e.g. teaching, research, administration), to ensure that appropriate time is set aside for assessment and feedback.” Should there be cases where workloads cannot be adjusted to meet deadlines for Exam Board processes, staff responsible for marking and assessment should discuss this with their line managers/Heads of Department at the earliest possible opportunity and all parties should work together to find a solution, with managers supporting staff in seeking to adjust timelines and workloads. Flexibility and additional support should be offered to staff members in departments where teaching continues later into the year.
No staff member will be penalised for delays in returning marking due to excessive workloads, provided they have consulted with relevant line managers and taken reasonable efforts to prioritise and complete outstanding assessment.

GUCU and SMT will encourage all markers and departmental management teams to follow these guidelines in order to ensure an orderly completion of the assessment processes, and will continue to support them in doing so. Through this approach it is our collective intention to support the timely completion and progression of our students after this period of disruption.

What this means for students

GUCU members will no longer be participating in action short of a strike, which included not returning marked, assessed work to students. Marking will now take place with assessment outcomes returned to students over the coming weeks.

Assessments and other support

GUCU and SMT have committed to doing everything possible to ensure students achieve their learning outcomes for this academic year. This means:

  • Proactively working to minimise the impact of the dispute on students’ studies
  • Prioritising students most affected by the dispute
  • Work will now be marked in line with the Assessment Feedback Policy (PDF) with a focus on ensuring wherever possible that end of year results will be provided according to the timings previously published.
  • Timings for receiving marks and plans for rescheduled assessments will be provided by your department

Your department will be in touch with you to provide details about this assessment and support work.


Published 27 January 2021

Last updated 04 May 2021