The work that reps do in recruiting, organising and supporting members is key to the strength of UNISON.
The levels of involvement and participation can be rewarded by personal fulfillment and satisfaction with knowing the union is growing stronger.
Once you are a member of UNISON you could volunteer as a:
The branch steward is the members’ first point of contact with the union.
Stewards engage in different levels of activity depending on their experience, skills and time they are able to commit.
A UNISON steward should seek to:
- be the first and main point of contact with the union for members;
- recruit and organise new members;
- work with members to establish an organised workplace;
- support and advise members on workplace issues, both individual and collective;
- act as a spokesperson for the members they represent, inform and involve members in branch activity;
- represent members with the employer, depending on their experience and confidence;
- represent members within the branch committee;
- be answerable to the members they represent.
Health and safety representative
Safety representatives are appointed by UNISON, not the employer. Your UNISON branch will decide on the arrangements.
Once a safety representative is appointed, the employer must be notified in writing of that appointment.
The union learning rep is a fairly new position. People in this role are likely to be members who have recently completed a learning programme and are enthusiasts and advocates for learning in their own workplaces.
Members do not need to hold an election but should find some way of agreeing on who the contact should be.
Stewards may wish to encourage a colleague to become a contact, either to assist with stewards’ work or to encourage them to become more active at a later date.
Your rights and benefits
On a practical level, volunteering and being elected as a steward gives a workplace representative access to important rights and benefits, such as:
- training by UNISON;
- regular UNISON mailings, including InFocus, UNISON’s monthly stewards magazine;
- access to UNISON advice and information;
- support from a UNISON organiser, should they face serious problems at work.
Stewards working for employers that officially recognise UNISON also have rights to:
- paid time off for training, meetings with members and managers and some other union work;
- use of employers’ telephones, email and internal mail;
- access to an office and lockable facilities at work;
- recognition as a UNISON representative.