On 4-5 October, workers at the Royal College of Art struck in support of their long running campaign against casualised working conditions. 90% of staff are employed on “zero hours” and other forms of insecure contracts — the highest percentage of such employment in UK Higher Education. Strikes are scheduled for the next three weeks .
RCA strikers will take heart from the important recent win at Open University, where 4,000 Associate Lecturers won significant improvements in their (fixed-term) contracts, including a pay rise and payments for all work.
At Goldsmiths in south London, staff are preparing for industrial action to fight the threat of job cuts, with more expected next year as management forces through its inaptly-named “recovery plan”.
Staff in professional services have been told they have to compete for a diminished number of roles in a new, centralised structure of admin (similar structures have proved to be very dysfunctional in other Unis). The unions (University and College Union, UCU, and Unison) have been told 32 professional service jobs are under threat. These are important jobs without which universities cannot adequately support their students.
In addition 20 academic jobs in History and English and Creative Writing are under threat — here Goldsmiths management is slavishly following the government’s downgrading of Humanities.
The cuts arise from years of poor financial decision-making followed now by an unnecessary drive to get rid of a deficit in just one year, kowtowing to a restrictive bank deal.
Goldsmiths UCU is now preparing for industrial action: @GoldsmithsUCU .
Over late September and early October, as the university year starts, Workers’ Liberty people have leafleted Fresher Fairs and started regular sales at a number of universities. At Goldsmiths we sold 117 copies of Solidarity (a record for a single sale) and many pamphlets. Sales were also high at Sheffield Uni and SOAS.
This term we will be holding monthly online meetings about current political debates (on the meaning of imperialism, on left antisemitism and on free speech) as well as local informal face-to-face political discussions for students at the Bloomsbury campuses — SOAS, Birkbeck, UCL — in and around Goldsmiths, in Leeds and in Sheffield.