Podcast: How To Win The Battle For Our Universities

In this episode of the Beyond Education podcast, Dave and Kirsty talk to Goldsmiths UCU case-worker and negotiator Roberto Mozzachiodi and former Liverpool UCU president Anthony O’Hanlon about how to win battles for the future of our universities.

Both have significant experience of fighting marketisarion in their respective UCU branches. Roberto and Anthony share their practical knowledge of strategic action, highlighting how an understanding of relative power, member expertise and timings can make the difference between winning and losing.

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Goldsmiths UCU has just finished three weeks of industrial action against plans to cut 52 jobs: 20 academics in English & Creative Writing and History, and 32 professional services staff.

This is part of what Goldsmiths management terms ‘The Recovery Plan’: an attempt to use job cuts to improve the College’s finances. Goldsmiths UCU (GUCU) argues this is a bad plan, both in terms of the financial impacts and the injustice of the proposed job cuts themselves. Senior management also claims these cuts are required by the banks due to a deal that was struck with Lloyds Bank and Natwest bank, negotiated by the consultancy firm KPMG, committing to £4million of staff cuts this year followed by £2million next year.

Despite huge support for the strike on the part of Goldsmiths staff and students and the sector as a whole, management announced they will ignore UCU’s counter proposals from us and go ahead with the planned redundancies.

As a result, UCU has censured Goldsmiths with the ultimate sanction of a global academic boycott.

The global boycott means the union is asking its members, other trade unions, labour movement organisations and the international academic community to support its members at Goldsmiths in any way possible, including by:

  • refusing to speak at or organise academic or other conferences and events (with Goldsmiths or involving Goldsmiths) which do not directly contribute to core teaching duties on accredited programmes
  • refusing to participate in non-research based partnership enterprises with Goldsmiths
  • refusing to write for any academic journal which is edited at or produced by Goldsmiths
  • refusing to accept new contracts as external examiners for taught courses
  • relocating events due to take place at Goldsmiths to other venues.

UCU is also urging all external speakers invited to participate in events at Goldsmiths to refuse to collaborate with the institution in solidarity with staff fighting to save jobs and defend the future of the university.

Other links:

UCU #FourFights

On 1 December 2021, three consecutive days of strike action hit 58 universities after university bosses and their representatives refused to withdraw pension cuts or address falling pay and worsening working conditions.

After notifying vice chancellors that staff would take strike action unless they saw movement, UCU continued to meet with employer representatives Universities UK (UUK) over pension cuts, but UUK refused to reverse them.

On pay and working conditions, meanwhile, employers, represented by University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) still won’t meet without preconditions, and refuse to engage in agreeing action plans that would address widespread casualisation, excessive workloads and pay inequalities. UCEA has also refused to move on another below inflation pay offer for staff.

Last week (12 Jan) UCU’s higher education committee (HEC) decided to escalate action short of a strike (ASOS) over the Four Fights and USS disputes. Notice has been served on higher education employers where there is a live ASOS mandate and, with immediate effect, ASOS will consist of: 

  • working to contract
  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • 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 classes and lectures cancelled due to strike action
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities. 

The HE disputes FAQ has been updated to include the union’s latest advice on ASOS.