Goldsmiths staff set date for marking boycott over ‘brutal’ sackings

Staff at Goldsmiths University will boycott marking duties over “brutal” plans to sack more than one in six academic staff, a trade union has said.

The boycott, set to begin on April 19, will cover all marking and assessments in writing, online, or verbally at the New Cross-based university. 

The action by members of the University and College Union (UCU) will cover assessment-related work such as exam invigilation and the administrative processing of marks. 

UCU has warned that “graduations will be impacted” unless the university resolves the dispute by halting the plans currently under consideration to cut more than 130 jobs.

Goldsmiths says the threatened cuts are due to a financial shortfall from lower than budgeted student recruitment for the academic year 2023-2024, as well as the long-term decline of certain subjects and student metrics.

The boycott follows an overwhelming vote for industrial action against the cuts, which would see academics axed from the 11 departments.

Last month, more than 87 per cent of UCU members voted for strike action in a ballot with a turnout of 69 per cent.

According to UCU, redundancies will hit the departments of theatre and performance, history, English and creative writing, visual cultures, politics and international relations, music, anthropology, sociology, educational studies, psychology and social, and therapeutic and community studies. 

But, UCU said, many staff at Goldsmith’s are employed through fractional and part-time contracts which means the cuts will impact “far more” than 130 people.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “We warned Goldsmiths that we will not allow it to bulldoze brutal cuts of this scale through, but despite our overwhelming vote for industrial action management has refused to listen. 

“It now has two weeks to change course and avoid a marking boycott.

“It is the last thing our members want to do, but the alternative is allowing the leadership team at Goldsmiths to abandon the university’s commitment to the arts and turn a once proud institution into a shell of its former self. This is something we cannot allow.”

Goldsmiths is renowned for its creative arts and humanities with graduates including the film director Steve McQueen, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and musicians Alex James and Graham Coxon from Blur.

A spokesman from Goldsmiths University said: “Just this week we have been told by the Government that our central funding is being frozen which is a cut in real terms due to inflation.

“The Government is also taking away vital access funding which helps provide opportunity for all.

“Any reduction in funding for us could be bad news for Lewisham. Our activities generate £91million for Lewisham and support thousands of jobs across the borough and London.

“The plans we have set out are aimed at ensuring that Goldsmiths overcomes these issues and continues to extend its unique offer to students and the local community.

“We will continue to work hard to ensure that job losses are kept to a minimum and also to protect arts and humanities subjects in the best way we can.”

Pictured top: Goldsmiths staff picket line outside the University earlier this year (Picture: Goldsmiths UCU)

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