SOAS is currently undergoing an intense re-structuring. With a £7.1m gap in the budget, the dire financial crisis at SOAS is no secret. According to a report commissioned by UNISON and UCU Execs, the school is facing “an existential crisis”.
Throughout the entire restructuring process, higher management have isolated themselves. Management claim they worked closely alongside unions when working out the process. We are infuriated by these blatant lies when our staff have had no say whatsoever in the security and future of their careers at SOAS.
While cutting over £1.5 million from Professional Services staffing budgets, the new structure sees an increase in senior management roles.
The damaging restructuring plan that SOAS’ higher management have presented to staff and students is an obvious example of vicious class warfare. 109 members of our professional staff – some of which have been at SOAS for decades and are integral to the running of the university – have not been “matched” to new job descriptions as the current restructuring stands. In other words: for 109 people, their jobs will no longer exist.
Over a hundred members of staff – real people, supporting real families, with real rents and mortgages to pay – will be told that SOAS can no longer give them work.
For staff members who have been “matched” to new jobs, it comes as no surprise that their new job descriptions are a complete sham. Across the school, there has been a significant ‘downgrading’ of jobs.
This means that many job descriptions have been altered with the sole intention of being ‘worth’ a lower salary. However, the changes to the job descriptions are made as minimal as possible and are often made by changing the language; for example, omitting ‘higher grade’ key words like ‘support’. Essentially, staff will be doing the exact same work whilst their wages will be savagely slashed. This ‘downgrading’ of roles is perhaps most significant for library staff. All jobs in the library currently stand at grade 7 and 8, however all new library positions are now graded at 6. This is a horrendous tactic pulled by management as a means to ‘cut costs’.
The Baroness herself, Lady Amos, rakes in £225,000 a year – that’s two years of our tuition fees in one month. The 8 parasites who make up the higher management team suck out £1m of SOAS funds per annum in their grossly large paychecks. Higher management are completely delusional in thinking it’s acceptable to shift this damaging financial burden onto 109 members of professional staff, all whilst taking absolutely no responsibility for the dire situation they have put SOAS into. We will not stand aside and let our professional staff take the bullet for higher management’s incompetence.
The motion passed at the emergency UGM on Friday 22nd of March shows that this seething anger is shared across the student body. We call on all and every member of the community at SOAS to get engaged, reach out, attend any open union meetings, email your heads of department, and prepare to support any strike action in solidarity with staff. Let’s continue to build pressure on the joke of a management at SOAS.
What is happening at SOAS right now is in no way an isolated incident. Other universities in Britain are facing similar or connected struggles; Reading, Swansea, Cardiff, UCL, Goldsmiths, KCL. This is a direct result of the commercialisation of Higher Education, turning our education into a commodity, profiting the fat cats at the very tops of institutions. Whilst our immediate aim is to pressure management into scrapping this failure of an OPS plan, we must point out the broader picture at a national level.
Management are far removed from the day to day life of the university. It is the students, academic staff, cleaners, security staff and all other professional staff who actually run the university.
We stand for democratic control of universities by elected representatives, not unelected management. We want elected managers to be paid the same wage as teachers and staff, not university vice-chancellors who earn six-figure salaries while staff are forced to take pay cuts, or indeed redundancies as seen here.
Capitalism is in its death agony. It can no longer provide for those outside the highest earning 1% of society. Valerie Amos and those whose huge paychecks are at stake are running amok trying to keep the situation under control, but like our disgraced Prime Minister May – they’re destined to fail. The days of the fat cats raking in profits at the expense of the livelihoods of workers will come to an end within our lifetime.
Join the struggle!
Students and workers united will never be defeated!
SOAS Marxist Society executive:
Nicolas Navarro Padron, Peter Kwasiborski, Mina-Mae Alexander, Phoenix Scotney, Eric Moore.