Members of staff from Goldsmiths as well as many other universities strike by engaging in a comprehensive boycott of assessment.
A notice that around 500 Goldsmiths staff members, who are part of the University College Union (UCU), will be on assessment strike as reported on the Goldsmiths website 4th November 2014.
The assessment boycott as defined by the union is that staff who are members of the UCU will ‘halt all actions necessary for, or associated with, student learning outcomes and includes a comprehensive boycott of all setting and marking, coursework, assignments and therefore includes all student work submitted for assessment.’ The strike is in response to on-going conflict over proposed reform of the university pension scheme.
While this seems like a local dispute for Goldsmiths students, it is co-ordinated with 66 other universities who are being represented by Universities UK. In common with Trade Union practise, the Goldsmiths staff have committed to a notion of ‘collective negotiations.’ This means they cannot negotiate local settlements and are bound to the current disputes in the other universities.
Trustees, who are very persistent that reform is needed, run the national pension scheme. The reform in short is:
- ‘Under the proposal, employees will pay the same amount as now while universities will pay 2% more.’
- ‘The final salary section would close to future benefits, with existing benefits protected and calculated using pensionable salary and service at the date of change.’
- ‘Future pension for all members would build up in the career re-valued benefit (CRB) section on earnings up to a salary threshold – proposed to be £50,000.’
- ‘All members would also have the option to pay an additional amounts into the DC section, which under the current proposal, the employers would match the first 1% of salary.’
The only way for engagement in local talks and action to occur would be the leaving of the collective group and the pension scheme. However, there are significant obstacles. Firstly, both sides must agree to this. Secondly, to leave the pension scheme would mean that Goldsmiths would have to pay something called the ‘section 75 debt’. According to the Goldsmiths website ‘The level of the section 75 debt would be unaffordable and would result in the university becoming insolvent’.
It is uncertain, considering the variables such as length of strike and reaction of the university, how this will impact us as students. However, those affected may have their work unmarked and there may be a delay in setting future assessments. Goldsmiths Human Resources has stated they will be taking all reasonable steps to minimise the impact on students and support them. They also will be continuously monitoring the situation. Any students who are concerned are advised to talk to the Student Centre in the Richard Hoggart Building (RHB 117).