Before strike action

Guidance on how members can prepare for strike action.

On this page:

Communicating with students, management, each other

Sheffield UCU committee remains hopeful that Universities UK (who represent the employers on USS matters) and UCEA (who represent the employers on pay) will return to meaningful negotiations.

How can you help?

  • UCEA and UUK represent individual employers, and they negotiate at the instruction of these employers. You, and students, can write to Koen Lamberts at asking him to intervene with the employers’ bodies—please copy us in (
  • Talk to your students, and ask for their support.
  • Posters and leaflets should be prominent in your department—put them on your doors and notice boards (ask your departmental rep, or collect them from our office at 3 Palmerston Road).
  • Talk about the dispute on social media, if you use it (follow Sheffield UCU on Twitter). UCU have made videos and graphics available to help explain the disputes, and our members have previously produced a student-facing video explaining the issues involved in these disputes.

Email auto-responses

We recommend that you set these up starting from the first day of strike action and leave on until the dispute is over. If you need help setting up an auto-response, see here.

ON STRIKE: I am on strike today until [date] as part of Sheffield UCU’s industrial action to demand the return of the unreasonable Marking and Assment Boycott (MAB) deductions.  Your email will not be read and you will need to resend it on [date].

ACTION SHORT OF A STRIKE: I am working to contract as part of Sheffield UCU’s industrial action to demand the return of the unreasonable Marking and Assment Boycott (MAB) deductions. There may be a delay in my response due to workload issues.

You might like to include links to further information about the disputes in your out-of-office messages, or direct any students you work with to alternative sources of support.

Instructions to mitigate strike action

We are aware that some members have been instructed to take steps to mitigate strike action in advance, either in their roles as line managers, as GTAs being asked to conduct teaching, or professional services colleagues being asked to develop plans to work around striking colleagues and/or yourselves.

We are under no legal obligation to inform anyone of whether we are taking strike action, before said action occurs. This means that none of us can or should assume anything about our colleagues’ participation, and thus we should not be acting to mitigate our own strike action in advance.

Some specific advice below:

  • If, as an instructor, you are asked whether you will take part in strike action, so that cover can be arranged, you are not required to answer, and we ask you not to. It is not appropriate for anyone to arrange cover for any modules you are responsible for, as they do not know whether or not you will participate in action.
  • If, as a postgraduate researcher, you or anyone you know are approached with regard to covering teaching, we ask you to decline.
  • If, as a member of professional services staff, you are asked to take actions to specifically mitigate strike action, we advise you to indicate that you do not know which members of staff will or will not be participating in action, and are thus not in a position to develop a mitigation strategy. If you are placed in a position where you are directly instructed to develop contingency plans, we encourage you to request precise details and instructions be provided with regard to said plans, and that you query how any information that went into forming said instructions was gathered.
  • If, as a line manager, you are instructed to ask staff whether they intend to take part in industrial action, we ask you to not do so, as staff are under no obligation to tell you. Relatedly, it is entirely appropriate for you to not undertake to mitigate specific staff members’ strike action in advance, as you cannot know who will choose to take part in this action.
  • If, as any member of staff, you are asked to make plans to mitigate your own action, you are not obligated to do so, as you do not have to inform the university of your decision to take part in action ahead of time.

If any members need assistance in navigating requests to pre-mitigate action, please get in touch and we will offer support.

Online Module Content

Strike action is a withdrawal of labour, including teaching labour. The University of Sheffield’s Trade Unions have negotiated with the University to develop a policy around lecture recordings and videos.

As a member of staff at the University of Sheffield, you have performance ownership over the lectures that you teach, including videos of these lectures. For days on which you will be striking, we encourage members to not make available any recordings over which you have performance rights, as these may serve to mitigate your strike action.