I was working on my Django Base Site project when I discovered a test was failing in a GitHub Action when trying to run Django’s collectstatic manager command. It was failing in Python with the error, PermissionError: [Errno 13] Permission denied: '/srv/app/collected_static'.

I’ll save you from all the boring details from my hours of debugging and trying to fix it. What ending up being the fix was simply running my Docker Compose commands as root with the -u root argument.


docker compose run -u root --rm --no-deps web ./manage.py collectstatic --no-input

The reason I had to do this is that my Docker image is built using the USER app instruction in the Dockerfile and according to the GitHub documentation on the Dockerfile it says:

Docker actions must be run by the default Docker user (root). Do not use the USER instruction in your Dockerfile, because you won’t be able to access the GITHUB_WORKSPACE. For more information, see “Using environment variables” and USER reference in the Docker documentation.

As a bonus, if you’re debugging GitHub Actions, a fantastic tool that can save you hours of frustration is to use the mxschmitt/action-tmate action. Instead of making a change to your Github Action YAML file and then pushing the change and waiting to see if it passes. You can use this action to create a live interactive shell for the container your action is running in so that you can quickly test and try new fixes.