Get active in UNISON

Meet new people, learn new skills and go places... get involved in your union!

Branch roles

Branch Officers

UNISON has 1,200 branches in the UK. A branch is made up of all its members. Some members are elected by their workforce to play different roles, including:

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.

Branches may create other posts according to their rules.



Why are stewards important?
Stewards are the backbone of UNISON. Without stewards there would be no one there to act as the link between members and the union and to organise and support people in the workplace.

What does a UNISON steward do?
As a steward you can:

  • Talk to, recruit and organise members around workplace issues
  • Talk to members about workplace problems, advice them and keep them informed of latest developments
  • Represent members in your workplace
  • Be involved in how your branch and union is run.

Will I have to negotiate with my employer?
It helps if stewards go to meetings with employers - it's usually the best way to talk to them! But you won't be forced to do anything you don't want to do and we will offer you training and backup. Some stewards may be involved in local negotiations or in grievance or disciplinary cases - with training and support from the union. Senior stewards or convenors often take part in negotiations about pay and conditions with employers.

What if I'm worried I can't do everything?
Different stewards get involved in different activities depending on experience, skills and time factors. UNISON is very much in favour of job sharing for stewards. This way you can spread the load, work together and support each other. Job sharing should be agreed with your branch.

You could also consider becoming a workplace contact and see how much you're willing and able to do.

What rights do I get as a steward?
In workplaces where UNISON is recognised by the employer stewards have rights to time off for training and to carry out their work. This includes:

  • Meetings with members and management
  • Preparation and research
  • Keeping members informed
  • Do I get any training?

All new stewards are encouraged to go on an induction course and on a course for handling grievances and disciplinary matters. You'll receive regular information on training courses covering a wide range of workplace issues. These are normally run at regional level.

Contact your regional education officer for more information.

Who can I go to for support and advice?
Colleagues, workplace contacts and more experienced stewards, health and safety reps and branch officers will all help you.

Most branches will make sure that reps have details of local union officers who can give prompt advice and guidance.

Your regional organiser, regional education officer, women's officer and branch support teams are based in the regional office and can be approached for assistance through your branch secretary.

Where else can I get help?
Our UNISONdirect hotline has a special stewards' helpline open 6am-midnight Monday to Friday and 9am-4pm on Saturday.
Tel: 0845 355 0845
Text tel: 0800 0 967 968


Workplace contacts - your first step in UNISON

What do workplace contacts do?
UNISON workplace contacts play different support roles in the workplace, including:

  • Making sure members receive union and other important information
  • Helping groups of members to organise effectively
  • Maintaining contact between members and the union where there is an elected steward
  • Supporting other activists such as stewards and health and safety reps

Workplace contacts have a more informal role than stewards or safety representatives. They can also operate as part of a network supporting an elected steward.

Where can I get support and advice?
Your own steward, your health and safety rep and your branch are all there to help and support you in whatever you are able to contribute. You can also get advice from regional offices where necessary.

The union will make sure you:

  • Receive regular UNISON information
  • Are encouraged and enabled to get involved in branch work
  • Get training and access to education, including induction courses for members considering becoming more involved
  • Know where to go for advice on dealing with workplace problems

Most branches can give workplace contacts training and support through practical experience, for example, by inviting them to observe and assist in advising and organising members and in meetings with management.

How do I become a UNISON workplace contact?
Any group of members can elect a workplace contact. This group is known as the workplace contact's constituency.

Members don't 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 workplace contact, either to assist with stewards' work or to encourage them to become more active in the future.

UNISON national activists zone

UNISON has built up a fantastic resource to support members getting more involved in UNISON. Click for more info...

Get campaigning

campaigning photo

There's never been a more important time for UNISON members to get involved in campaigning. Our public services, jobs and pensions are being targeted by Cameron and Clegg who are determined to make workers and service users pay the price of the global recession.

We will not sit back while societies are ripped apart and the vulnerable are tossed aside to pay for the greed of the bankers. Every part of UNISON - our members, branches, regions and the union nationally - has a part to play. We all need to show the politicians that UNISON members will not stand by while their policies damage our communities.

See the National campaigning pages

Who's who in the branch

You can see the list of branch roles and who is currently in those positions here...