Useful resources for UNISON Activists

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Branch roles and officer positions

The UNISON Rep: Branch roles


A UNISON steward is an elected representative whose role includes organising, recruiting and representing members (including at disciplinary and grievance hearings). Stewards in workplaces where UNISON is recognised by the employer have rights to time off for training and to carry out their work.

Stewards have a right to be involved in how their branch is run and are the most important link between the members and the union.

UNISON aims to have at least one steward in each workplace and department, more in larger departments and where members work shifts.Stewards are elected each year by the group of members that they represent and the post is open to job share.

Health and Safety Rep

A health and safety representative has the right to training and to raise issues which affect the health and safety of members. UNISON aims to have at least one health and safety representative in every workplace where we have members.

In some cases, the safety representative and steward are the same person but they have two separate roles. Safety representatives have specific duties and responsibilities and also have important legal rights.

Find out more about health and safety reps

Union Learning Rep

Learning reps are likely to be members who have recently completed a learning programme and are enthusiasts and advocates for learning in their own workplaces.

Their precise role will vary according to their own circumstances, but will probably centre on raising awareness of lifelong learning among the members and helping to identify and articulate the learning needs of particular members, as well as negotiating with employers on learning issues.

They have some rights to time off for training and carrying out their duties.

They will also liaise with employers about lifelong learning opportunities.

Find out more about workplace learning.

Workplace Contacts

Workplace contacts distribute information, support a steward or carry out some tasks normally undertaken by a steward.

Workplace contacts do not have access to the same rights as stewards, but can and do play an important role in helping groups of members to organise effectively.

This is an ideal role for someone who is interested in becoming a steward or safety representative, but would like to find out more about what is involved. It is also ideal for those groups of members who can find no-one willing to be a steward.

Find out more about becoming more active in UNISON here...


Branch Officer descriptions

Branch Chair
Someone who facilitates branch and committee meetings (some are also senior negotiators).
Branch Secretary
The main contact person with the wider union who handles branch admin (may also be senior negotiators).
Branch Treasurer
Responsible for managing branch finances, including keeping accounts.
Branch Young Members Officer
Advises and helps recruit young members while ensuring their voices have an influence across the union.
Equalities Officers
Work on equal rights issues including sex, race, disability and lesbian and gay issues (there may be up to four per branch).
Branch Education Co-ordinator
Helps arrange training courses and education programmes for members, stewards, health and safety reps and branch officers.
Branch Communications Officers
Co-ordinates branch newsletters, websites and other media.
Branch International Officers
Develop and lead on international solidarity activities including campaigns, twinnings and support for projects abroad.
Retired Members Officer
Supports UNISON retired members by campaigning on their behalf and organising local activities.
APF Political Officer
Liases with the local Labour Party and makes sure the views of UNISON members who pay the APF levy are heard.


Essential material for activists

Stewards handbook, rulebook

New Members Handbook pdf logo This booklet is useful for stewards to read because it is a great summary of the benefits of joining UNISON.

UNISON Rulebookpdf logo Any questions about the rules of the union - you'll find them here!


Helping and recruiting members

Supporting members

Supporting members is the basic reason UNISON exists - and that makes it a key part of being a union activist or rep.

An important part of a UNISON steward's role is to support individual members by helping them to understand problems they are having at work and advising them how to raise their concerns with their manager or employer. Find out more... (you will need to sign into 'My UNISON' to see this advice)

Most UNISON branch officers, stewards and safety representatives will negotiate with employers at some time - it is how branches can make sure they protect and promote the interests of their members. The keys to success are organisation, preparation and teamwork. Find out more... (you will need to sign into 'My UNISON' to see this advice)

Recruiting new members

Recruiting is important for our members and for our potential members - the more of us there are, the louder our voice and the stronger we are in defence of each other. Find out more... (you will need to sign into 'My UNISON' to see this advice)

Working with the employer

Much of the core work of a trade union involves working with employers. Although it's not always possible, we like to build and maintain good relationships with employers: that is good for everyone concerned. Find out more... (you will need to sign into 'My UNISON' to see this advice)



CASEFORM :You can fill this PDF in online

Activists Education Programme

UNISON needs more, better equipped and motivated activists. The courses provided by UNISON Yorkshire & Humberside Region are aimed at building confidence and developing abilities. Courses are available for potential, new and more experienced activists seeking to improve their knowledge and skills. We are sure that both you and UNISON will benefit from the experience. It is never too late to learn.

Check out the programme here.