On 19th August, members of UNISON at the University of Sheffield celebrated after senior managers announced a dramatic U-turn by rescinding their threat to fire & rehire 8,000 members of staff.    

The move comes after seven weeks of campaigning from the trade union UNISON, who represent non-academic staff on campus. UNISON was angered by the issuing of a Section 188 notice for every member of staff that could have seen workers being dismissed and re-engaged on inferior contracts. This is a tactic which has recently been used by employers such as Centrica, Asda and British Airways.   

At the time of the announcement, local union officials described the proposals as: “Premature and strategically naive.” They pointed out that the University of Sheffield enjoys reserves of nearly £1billion and remains one of the most popular destinations to study amongst students.    

The university had entered into consultation with unions in July with a view to reducing contractual terms and conditions in an attempt to save £100 million. The proposals included voluntary redundancies, pay freezes, cancellation of promotions and a reduction in hours and salary. 

Despite the threat to ‘fire and rehire’, the University of Sheffield UNISON branch entered talks in good faith with a view to finding a resolution. They also ran a superb campaign, utilising support from local MPs, students and the community. Despite lockdown restrictions, they spoke to members regularly as record numbers joined the branch. As a result of the campaign run by UNISON, on Wednesday 19th August the University of Sheffield dropped the plans.   

Leonie Sharp, Regional Organiser at  UNISON said: “As the recession starts to take hold, we have seen a number of high profile employers use the threat of ‘fire and rehire’ in an attempt to reduce workers’ terms and conditions. This victory at the University of Sheffield shows what can be done when workers stick together and campaign for the outcome they want. 

“All credit needs to go to the small dedicated team of UNISON activists on campus. They have run an amazing campaign that will be seen as a victory by the whole trade union movement.” 


22 July 2020


This introductory 1-hour session is aimed at all UNISON members with an interest in Neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is an umbrella term for autism, dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia.  For further information and how to register for this course click here

If you are interested in attending a UNISON course and would like to know more – please contact the Branch Education officer, Linda Wood, for a chat: l.wood@shu.ac.uk


Northern College Micro Courses

These free online courses are open to anyone and are designed to introduce you to a range of subjects through an e-learning experience before committing to one of our longer traditional courses.

  • Employability skills – Whether you’re looking for your first job, have been out of work for a while or are even looking for a change in career, this bundle of resources will help you kick start your job search.
  • Digital literacy skills – Digital literacy skills are a must-have in a world which is increasingly becoming online and virtual. This course is an introduction to the skills required for those taking their initial steps in using ICT and the internet and is a starting point for further study.
  • Numeracy skills – Ideal for learners working at Entry Level 3, who might have some gaps in their maths knowledge and/or skills. This course will give you confidence to take a more formal and accredited course at this level.
  • Maths – Level 2 refresh – Good maths skills are an essential part of everyday life and this course will assist learners working at Level 2 who might have some gaps in their knowledge and/or skills. It has been split into 3 separate areas; fractions and percentage, number and BIDMAS, perimeter, area and volume.
  • English skills (part 1) – This micro course has been designed as the first part of a two part offer, and it will assist learners working at Entry Level 3 who might have some gaps in their knowledge and/or skills. Once completed you can continue-on to part 2.
  • English skills (part 2) – This micro course is the second of a two part offer to assist learners working at Entry Level 3 who might have some gaps in their knowledge and/or skills. This course should improve your skills and confidence to take a more formal and accredited course at this level.
  • English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) – Good language skills are important, and this micro course covers some of the essentials needed to develop English language skills at a basic level.  It presents you with an ideal opportunity to improve your skills and your confidence before studying in a more formal manner.
  • Covid-19 and safer workplaces – a guide for UNISON members – Covid-19 and the lockdown has left UNISON members feeling concerned, anxious, even stressed. This Micro Course has been designed to help plan what steps you will need to take, and how you can ensure you and your members are being as safe and risk aware as possible.

If you are interested in any of these courses, please visit Northern College website at:- https://www.northern.ac.uk/courses/micro-courses/

For more information about UNISON online courses for members and activists, please visit our website at:- https://yorks.unison.org.uk/online-training/


 UNISON Learning & Organising Services

Courses currently available for members:

⇒ Mental Health and Well Being
⇒ Staff Skills Academy
⇒ Bereavement awareness workshops for members in social care
⇒ Personal Development for UNISON Members
⇒ Help with Digital Skills
⇒ Get online with Learn My Way
⇒ Everyday Skills in Maths and English
⇒ Family Maths Toolkit
⇒ Activist Learning
⇒ UNISON e-learning
⇒ Organising Space

If you are interested in attending a UNISON course and would like to know more – please contact the Branch Education officer, Linda Wood, for a chat: l.wood@shu.ac.uk

Black Members Matter – Now and Always

A Message from Abdul Rashid – Chair of UNISON Yorkshire & Humberside Black Members Self-Organised Group

Black Members Matter – Now and Always

The last couple of weeks have been a critical time in highlighting the struggle against racism, first with the murder of George Floyd in the US and subsequent worldwide protests, then with the report detailing the increased impact of COVID-19 on Black communities – without any recommendations or action plan.

UNISON has always been a leader in the fight against racism and inequality in all its forms, wherever it may be, and we continue that fight every day.

Systemic racism is present in our institutions, both public and private. It has never meaningfully gone away, but it has taken different forms.

In the past, Black people experienced overt racism by being called names, seeing signs saying ‘No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs’. You do not see such blatant signs any more, but systemic racism now takes place in our private institutions.

For example, in the banks when you go to pay a bill, some banks ask you to prove your identity. As the Windrush scandal showed, it is not sufficient for Black people just to be British – you’re asked to show different forms of identity just to withdraw your monthly salary.

It is the additional checks and hurdles faced in accessing everyday services, which for most white people will never be a problem.

So while we have moved away from the naked and overt racism that Black people faced before, racism is now practiced in more covert ways – with sophistry and subtlety, but it has the same negative outcomes.

We need to take action to ensure that this does not happen, but the UK tends to follow the same trajectory as the US.

However, we have a different culture in the UK of fairness and tolerance, and we have to ensure that those values win through. Our democracy in the UK is different in that we have a system of open justice and good judicial oversight – so having access to justice is important.

Accountability and transparency are also key cornerstones of our democratic tradition and we need to keep it this way.

Where the danger is looming is that we need to stop the dog whistle politics and policies that feed the toxic environment that could propel UK racists towards the frequent violence seen in the US.

UNISON has an important and pivotal role. The union has always been in the vanguard – leading and shaping the agenda.

Leadership is critical in saying where the union stands on issues, and UNISON members have always been at the forefront of challenging the major social issues of our time.

So the union has to continue to be pro-active and visible in standing with all our members and communities.

As a public service union, we are in constant dialogue and engagement with our members who live in those communities and rely on those services.

UNISON has to use the size of its membership and the power of its access to influence change and continue to hold employers and the government to account.

We need to use the tools and power of collective bargaining to challenge discrimination, inequality and force employers to comply with their legal obligations.

How do we work to improve the lives of Black people in the UK?

We need to turn the dial on racism in our public and private institutions.

We need to challenge the low rate of employment for Black people from specific sectors of the labour market, education, manufacturing and construction. Unemployment remains high at almost three times the national rate.

On pay, research from the TUC found that the ethnicity pay gap is up to 25% and research by the Resolution Foundation reported that there was a £3.2bn pay penalty facing Black workers, with Black graduate men facing the biggest pay penalty of 17%.

In some sectors, young Black men in particular are excluded from apprenticeship opportunities. At every stage of the labour market, from recruitment, redeployment to redundancies, Black workers are ‘last in, first out’.

Black people are already over-represented in precarious, part-time, temporary and zero hours contracts.

We need to improve employment opportunities, challenge employment discrimination, implement positive action measures to redress employment and economic exclusion.

This continuum promotes economic inequality across generations of Black British people – and it seems that COVID-19 thrives on inequalities.

A recent Office for National Statistics report, comparing the COVID-19 deaths rates in England and Wales, finds that the mortality rate in the most deprived areas is twice as high as in the least deprived areas.

We need to break the cycle of discrimination, disadvantage and deprivation.

What are UNISON’s Black members most concerned about and want to see changed?

Black members are most concerned that urgency and vigour are injected into the problems they face. They don’t want dither and delay while Black lives are lost.

So they are concerned about the lack of government action and the failure to improve and protect lives and livelihoods.

They expect to see the government taking the issue of the Public Health England (PHE) report seriously, giving it the attention and urgency it deserves instead of side-lining the findings on structural inequalities.

They are risking their lives to save others and they expect the government to act to save theirs.

Instead, what they have seen is more tokenistic lip service. They hoped to see government-wide ownership of this issue at a senior level.

They want to see the government bring into force sections of the Equality Act 2010 to address inequalities that result from differences in occupation, education, place of residence or social class; to implement the Conservative 2017 manifesto commitment to take action on the ethnicity and disability pay gaps and meet their commitments on gender pay reporting and equal pay.

They want a comprehensive race equality strategy and a full public inquiry into disproportionate deaths from COVID-19.

What should UNISON’s white members should do to support their colleagues?

White members are in a different place from Black members as they view racism through different optics.

White and Black members should have conversations not confrontations on their different perspectives.

We tend to be creatures of our environment. But we can change that by leaving our baggage behind in terms of our conditioning and stereotypes, and begin to have meaningful conversations.

White members do not always see the truth of Black people’s lived experience of everyday racism. It is important to listen and to learn.

Think about why it is that a Black person has a more difficult job to be heard than you do.

We can all make a difference if we stand together as trade unionists and don’t let employers divide and rule; challenge the micro-aggressions your colleagues and fellow trade unionists experience in the workplace.

Our message is to step up, stand up and speak out in support of your colleagues – Act in unison to help lift the barriers and burden of fighting everyday racism.

Statement regarding homeworking, flexible hours and caring responsibilities

The following statement/advice has been agreed by the Branch Committee, seriously concerned about the danger that members may be put under pressure to agree to unreasonable working hours alongside caring responsibilities.  If you are not able to work for any reason, this should of course be discussed with your line manager as usual. But contact the Branch as advised in the statement.

Heroes, not Superheroes

Earlier this week the Vice Chancellor wrote to all staff to commend the “commitment and professionalism” of colleagues, referring to the “whole regiments of unsung heroes who have kept working, often doing extra hours, to keep the University going and support rapidly changing operations.”

It is true that a great deal of work, much of it above and beyond normal expectations, has gone into keeping the University going in these difficult times.  The VC’s praise is well deserved.

But all this incredible collective effort must not be exploited.  There is a limit to what can reasonably be expected of us, and the Branch is determined that our Health and Safety rights and Terms and Conditions must not be compromised. We are heroes, not superheroes.

UNISON, alongside the other unions, has been pressing for recognition by the University that it is unrealistic to insist that staff conform to business-as-usual working patterns and rules during the current crisis. What is needed is pragmatism, flexibility, and sensitivity. Recent ACAS guidance emphasises the importance of this: https://www.acas.org.uk/working-from-home.  An outcome-oriented approach could be adopted, looking at carefully prioritising essential work and taking into account what can reasonably be expected in individual circumstances.

But last Thursday (19th March), the University published a daily email update, which included a section on “working from home with care commitments.”     It included this statement:

“We appreciate that our families and those we care for are our primary concern, and that this will be the focus of your attention whilst this situation lasts.  However, we would ask that you balance this with work requirements.  If you are unable to make alternative care arrangements to cover your normal work pattern, this may mean that during this period you need to undertake your work in a new or different way which supports these responsibilities. We wish to support you with this.

This could mean agreeing a new work pattern with your line manager where you undertake work in the early mornings, weekends or evenings.  Whatever your work pattern, once this is agreed with your line manager, you should keep in contact on a regular basis, either through WebEx or by telephone.  It is important that you and your line manager speak to each other at least weekly, and preferably more often.”

The Branch immediately received outraged protests from members, especially those furious at the prospect of being expected to work unsociable hours on top of acting as full time carers (of children and other dependents) due to the public health situation. It is not surprising that the statement caused anxiety and anger from colleagues in this position.  It is not acceptable to expect anyone to somehow squeeze a 37 hour week into weekends, early mornings and late nights, let alone those with additional, exhausting, responsibilities.

The idea that colleagues in this situation might be penalised by using up annual leave or losing pay is not acceptable.

This contrasts starkly with the Vice Chancellor’s instruction to “Look after your mental and physical well-being”.

Flexible working arrangements – yes.   A pragmatic and supportive approach – yes.   Putting people under pressure to work late nights, or at 2am in the morning, or at weekends – no.

UNISON Branch Committee met urgently on Friday and voted to reject and oppose the guidance.   We are advising members not to agree to any changes to their working conditions without seeking advice from the Branch.   We are calling on the University to provide clearer and more supportive and understanding guidance, and to withdraw and clarify the current advice.   We are urging the University to make facilitating safe homeworking its first priority, as this is the most significant problem.

UNISON Branch Committee


It’s nearly time for our Annual General Meetings (AGMs) 

UNISON AGM at Collegiate Campus Tuesday 3 March

12–1pm AGM Business

1-2pm  Networking lunch

Both events will be held in HC.0.17 Heart of Campus


UNISON AGM at City Campus Wednesday 4 March

12–1pm AGM Business

1-2pm  Networking lunch

Both events will be held in Owen Room 1029

What is the AGM?

It’s your chance to have a say in how the UNISON Sheffield Hallam University Branch is run and how your membership fees are spent. It’s important to attend, as the Branch can only make decisions if we meet a minimum required attendance.

What happens at the AGM?

At the AGM you will

  • find out what UNISON is doing for you at Sheffield Hallam
  • help elect your branch officers
  • learn about how your membership fees are spent
  • chat to stewards and officers
  • ask questions, make suggestions and have your say on the running of the branch

You also get a free lunch, free promotional items and free entry into a raffle to win John Lewis gift cards.  This year we have increased the value of the gift cards to £30, £20, £15 as well as the number of gift cards at the City AGM to six – it’s win win for members!!

Networking Lunch follows on from the AGM Business.  Lunch is open to members who attend the AGM.

Submit a Motion

If you would like to submit a motion to be placed on the agenda, please email me the details by Friday 8 February. The agenda for the meeting and the officers’ reports will be placed on the UNISON SharePoint site a week prior to the meeting.

Please confirm your attendance to unisonadministrator@shu.ac.uk with one of the following options:

  • I will be attending the AGM Business only at Collegiate Campus on Tuesday 3 March 
  • I will be attending both the AGM Business and Networking lunch at the Collegiate Campus on Tuesday 3 March
  • I will be attending the AGM Business only at City Campus on Wednesday 4 March
  • I will be attending both the AGM Business and the Networking lunch at the City Campus on Wednesday 4 March



If you have any special dietary requirements please let us know and we will try to accommodate them.


Saturday 8 February 12-4:30pm

Building on the success of the last couple of years’ trade union conferences, the event will bring together trade unionists from across different industries and sectors to discuss and organise how we can raise anti racism in our unions and workplaces.

From the threat of a far right street movement breaking through, to the anti racist movement’s defeat of fascist ‘Tommy Robinson’ in Britain, to the rise in racist populism and intensification of a ‘hostile environment’ we are seeing in the form of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage – there are both victories for the anti racist movement to discuss, as well as major challenges now facing the anti racist movement.

The result of the general election and the reality of a Johnson led Tory government has made clear that anti racism is going to continue to be an important issue that should be at the heart of our unions.

Speakers include:

Margaret Greer Unison national race equality officer

Wilf Sullivan TUC race equality officer

Daniel Kebede NEU NEC

Riccardo La Torre FBU Eastern regional secretary

Registration 11.45am


Workshops 2pm – 3.15pm


Closing plenary 3.30 – 4.30pm: MOBILISING FOR MASS DEMOS ON 21 MARCH (UN ANTI RACISM DAY) #WorldAgainstRacism #M21

If you are interested in attending this event please email Lucinda Wakefield at l.m.wakefield@shu.ac.uk