Associate Lecturers (ALs) and Graduate Trainee Teachers (GTTs) at Goldsmiths University, London, plan to take action against the freezing of their short-term teaching contracts, against the withholding of payment for hours worked under lockdown (promised but not delivered), and against the decision by management not to use the government furlough scheme to help these precarious workers.
At the start of the year Goldsmiths management announced a programme of cuts (“Evolving Goldsmiths”). Then they withdrew under pressure from the unions. Financial uncertainty at the college has increased as a result of Covid-19. As elsewhere in higher education, the most precarious staff, ALs, GTTs and those on fixed-term contracts, will suffer the most. The hiring freeze means 472 posts are under threat.
ALs and GTTs, who are usually postgraduate students, receive just 7% of Goldsmiths’ wage bill, but it has been calculated that they do about 40% of the teaching, one of the highest percentages across UK higher-education institutions.
ALs and GTTs in many departments at Goldsmiths are currently refusing to return assessment grades until Goldsmiths changes course and negotiates with them. The UCU branch has passed a comprehensive motion, against the cuts and in support of these workers. The motion also highlights the implications of increased workload for other staff.
The new Warden at Goldsmiths, Frances Corner, wrote on her personal blog on 1 May: “1 May is International Workers Day… I’m thinking about the thousands of people across the country who are key workers.”
Corner, who gets £238,000 a year, should also think about those workers closer to “home” and their so far unpaid labour helping students through the stresses of the last two months. □