Academics and professional services staff at Goldsmiths have begun a three-week strike after the university announced sweeping cuts across two departments.

A total of 52 employees, 20 lecturers in the English & Creative Writing and History departments, along with 32 professional services staff, will be made redundant early next year if the New Cross university’s latest cost-cutting measures are implemented.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the university voted by 86 per cent, on a 70 per cent turnout, in favour of taking industrial action from November 22.

Hundreds attended an opening rally outside the university on Tuesday afternoon (November 23), hearing from a range of speakers, including former Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell MP.

Ahead of the strike, Goldsmiths UCU told students the following: “This is not a decision we take lightly, and we know that it is a big sacrifice for all of our students who have worked so hard to be here.

“However, it is the only thing that has worked in the past to get management into meaningful negotiations.

“Classes and tutorials will be cancelled, and the normal business of the university will cease, but that doesn’t mean learning stops.

“We will be present on campus every day and we invite all of you to come along and join picket lines and protests over the coming weeks.

“We are working with students to present a program of teach-outs (alternative learning spaces) as well.

“These redundancies and restructures are a major challenge for the whole Goldsmiths community, but we are confident that by sticking together, we can collectively defend our working and learning conditions.”

More than 2,000 academics, researchers signed a letter last month calling on Goldsmiths to "halt the decimation” of the departments.

The signatories, from institutions across the world, claim the integrity of the departments is under threat, suggesting senior management plans to replace specialised academics with "cheaper, precarious staff", or staff members with different areas of expertise.

More than 100 professional services staff members, who support students in a non-academic capacity, were sent letters in September informing them that their jobs were at risk.

The signatories claim their roles are being cut as part of a wider move to centralise administrative staff currently based in specific departments, disregarding their "crucial expertise."

Goldsmiths UCU, which represents both academic and non-academic staff, claims the university entered into a multi-million pound loan deal with Lloyds TSB and Natwest on the condition that it makes deep cuts to address its deficit, which is thought to be in excess of £10 million.

The union is calling for senior management to “open the books” so alternative solutions can be explored.

Members of the UCU across 58 London institutions are also set to strike in December as part of a long-running row over pensions, pay and working conditions.

A spokesperson from Goldsmiths, University of London said: “We have made a fresh appeal to Goldsmiths UCU to call off its planned strike action and join the College in facilitated discussions at ACAS.

“None of us want students to pay the price for this dispute and the impacts of three weeks of strike action on our students can be avoided if GUCU are willing to come to the table.

“We estimate that meeting wider UCU demands on pay and pensions could cost Goldsmiths an extra £11m per year, that’s almost a tenth of our annual income and would be on top of existing staff costs of £85m a year. We simply cannot afford to meet these demands.

“The unavoidable reality is that we have to make further savings to deal with significant financial challenges including an underlying deficit, over £10m of additional costs and lost income due to Covid-19, government cuts that see the College lose over £2m in funding every year, and a decline in the overall number of students studying some subjects.

“We want to reassure our students that we are putting their learning, their experience, and their outcomes first as we build a new and sustainable future for the College.”

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