During Strike Action

How to participate on strike days, and what you can and can't do.

On this page

Practicalities of Strike Action

UCU members are asked to take strike action:

  • 18-22 September 2023 (intro week)
  • 25-29 September 2023 (week 1)

When you are on strike, you do not work.

This includes time before 9am and after 5pm and includes any activity which is part of your work, such as:

  • Teaching
  • Administration
  • Meetings
  • Emails relating to work
  • Marking
  • Research
  • Events
  • Conferences where you are directly or indirectly representing your employer.

The University has confirmed that it will be deducting pay on the basis of 1/365th of your annual salary per strike day.

The University provides an option to striking members to ensure continuity of service in USS within the strike notification form.

You can read more in the University’s FAQs on industrial action, but please take our advice where there are differences in the messaging.

Guidance on meeting invitations

When you receive an invitation to a meeting on a day when strikes are planned, we recommend that you accept the invitation, but do not attend unless the strike is called off.
This is in line with our guidance around avoiding notifying colleagues and the employer ahead of time, and allows for maximum disruption on the day of strikes.
However, we also realise that this approach may not be appropriate or possible for all members and for all situations. As such, you may instead want to consider the following options:
  • Ignore any invitations that you receive. This allows for a sense of ambiguity which can be quite disruptive, but may not be appropriate where you wish to make a statement about your action or where a response is required.
  • Decline the invitation (if it is beyond reasonable doubt that the strike will proceed), with a message of “I will very likely be taking part in industrial action this day as part of UCU’s industrial action over the USS pension scheme and our pay and conditions, and as such will not be able to confirm my attendance”.
The approach you choose to take will depend on your individual circumstances and the nature of the meetings you are invited to, but please bear in mind that members planning to strike should avoid notifying the employer where possible.

Research-only contracts

If you are on a research-only contract and you are taking strike action, you should not work and should follow all other advice.

We have heard from several research-only members who have expressed concern that their strike action does not have an impact on the University. It does: the university’s work will be slowed down and your email auto-responses will go to your funders, partners and colleagues. Your presence and solidarity on the picket lines will help the branch’s action.

If you are a fixed term contract researcher, you should consider engaging with the activities of our anti-casualisation network, particularly in relation to our upcoming negotiations.

Research-only externally funded contracts

If you are employed by the University on an externally-funded contract and you take strike action you should not work and should follow all other advice.

If your employment contract is with an external funding body, or any other body or agency, you should not strike.

Your payment deductions should remain within the relevant budget code, and in some cases may be able to be used to extend your contract accordingly.

Hourly-paid and GTA contracts

If you are employed on an hourly-paid or GTA contract and you take strike action, you should not work and should follow all other advice.

In order to be eligible to claim from the fighting fund, all GTA members must ensure that they have ‘standard free’ membership, not student membership. Membership details can be updated via MyUCU (you will need your membership number, which you can find in the email welcoming you to UCU).

PGR student members

PGR members who are not contractually employed by the University are encouraged to show support to the ongoing action, via messages of solidarity, or joining pickets in support.

National guidance for PGR members (PDF, 203kB)

Student’s Union guidance

Research leave

If you are on research leave and you take strike action you should not work and should follow all other advice.

Annual leave/parental leave/sickness absence

If you are not at work for these reasons during strike action, you cannot strike. This is the only ‘dispensation not to strike’ that our members have, and we encourage you to donate any earnings to the local hardship fund if you can.


All staff who are part of a bargaining unit have the same protections and rights with regard to participating in legally called industrial action. This means that staff who are not part of UCU may still participate in strike action without fear of dismissal or discrimination, if they choose to do so. However, being a member provides you access to collective support from UCU.

We encourage all who support the strike and are wishing to join the action to join UCU. You can do that up to and including the point when you begin taking industrial action.

UCU FAQs- rights of non-members


Please join one of our picket lines. For the action starting from 18/09/23, we will be picketing  from 9am-1pm, rather than the traditional times of 8am-11am.

The pickets at this branch are scenes of joyous protest, creativity, home-baking, music and fancy dress. We will be picketing all major University buildings, and you can collect placards and at the union office at 3 Palmerston Road from 8.00am on strike days. Get your colleagues involved!

Making picketing more accessible:

We appreciate that being outside for extended periods of time, often standing up, and holding placards can be challenging. Here’s some advice on how to make that process easier:

  • Wear clothes appropriate for the weather. It is more wearing to stand in the cold than it is to walk. Gloves and extra socks are frequently invaluable.
    • Feel free to bring along a small camping chair or similar if you need one, but do take care not to block the pavement or prevent anyone else’s access to the building.
    • If you have a medical condition that might require immediate access to a toilet, feel free to use the one closest to you regardless of whether or not it is behind a picket.
    • Remember that coffee shops, pubs (including the University Arms), the union office at 3 Palmerston Road and the Students’ Union are all ‘neutral spaces’ that you are free to use throughout strike days.
    • Feel free to take a break from the picket if you need one.
    • Please read and familiarise yourself with UCU’s guidance on picketing. If in doubt, please call the picket supervisor on the branch mobile phone (07543 043719).
  • Most importantly, don’t push yourself too hard. All contributions to this action are valuable and welcomed.

Picket rotas

We have encouraged departmental reps to circulate picket rotas to ensure that picket lines are adequately staffed on each day of the strike action.

If your rep hasn’t been in touch with you about this, offer to help out by creating one yourself. Picketing can be physically tiring and we encourage members to organise amongst themselves to allow individuals to take days off from picketing.

COVID safety

COVID safety is very important for this branch. Please take all reasonable precautions including physical distancing and mask wearing where needed. We also encourage all members to take regular lateral flow tests and to avoid attending the pickets if you test positive or have any symptoms.

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.


Friday 15th September, 2-5pm,3 Palmerston Road- Placard making session

Join us at the branch office at 3 Palmerston Road for a fun placard making session before strike action!


Get more involved!

Many of Sheffield UCU’s reps, committee members and activists have become involved because of periods of industrial action in the past, and we hope that this dispute too will produce a new generation of heavily involved UCU members.

You are the branch, and the more you can do to help, the easier it will be for all of us. As well as the current dispute, we need volunteers to support individual members with casework, to negotiate with the university, to sit on promotions appeals panels, to campaign, to analyse policy, and much else. Come along to one of our meetings, get in touch with your departmental rep, talk to your colleagues and ask them to join us.

Consider joining our cross-union dispute committee, and anti-casualisation network.

Speak to a committee member if you’d like to get more involved, or feel free to email ucu@sheffield.ac.uk.