Useful resources for UNISON Activists

The South West Yorkshire Partnership Health branch of UNISON is run by a committee which consists of members elected to take on different roles. The branch holds regular meetings, including an annual general meeting.

This section of the website is designed to give UNISON activists in the branch useful information including Branch roles, Branch Officer descriptions, guide lines for stewards, Branch rules, Code of good Branch practice and much more. Let us know if there is anything else that would prove useful to your work in the union.

Branch roles and reps

Branch roles

UNISON has almost 1,000 branches in the UK. A branch is made up of all its members. Some members are elected by their workforce to play different roles.

All branches must have at least one members' meeting a year. This is the annual general meeting, which is held between 1 January and 31 March.

BRANCH OFFICERS
Branches must elect certain core officers:

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, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) 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 websites, social media, newsletter and other communications.

Branch international officers: Develops and leads 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: Liaises with the local Labour Party and makes sure the views of UNISON members who pay the affiliated political fund levy are heard.

Branches may also create other posts according to their rules. Officers are elected either at the AGM or by postal ballot beforehand.

BRANCH COMMITTEE
The branch officers and stewards form the branch committee. Branch committees meet monthly and are responsible for running all branch business between full members' meetings.

Normally all stewards are members of the branch committee, though large branches may be divided into sections, with a representative from each sitting on the branch committee.

Where that is the case, stewards in each section will meet as a section steward committee and have their own representatives directly elected onto the main branch committee.

Branches are also encouraged to develop organisation among under-represented groups such as women, Black members, LGBT members, disabled members, young members and retired members by setting up self-organised groups.

These can also elect officers to the branch committee.

Most branches will have a dedicated branch office and may employ staff to administer and run it.


 

Become a rep

The UNISON workplace rep is the most important link between the union and its members. Workplace representatives play a number of roles.

They are organisers who talk to, recruit and organise members around workplace issues, hold meetings, undertake surveys and help run ballots.

They give members information about union issues by publicising UNISON campaigns, distributing leaflets and keeping members informed about and involved in local negotiations.

They are advisers and sounding boards, talking to members about workplace problems and - if they feel confident - giving advice on how to deal with these.

Alternatively, they may arrange for the member to get advice or assistance from elsewhere in the union, or work with them to get the information they need.

They are representatives and spokespersons for members in their workplace.

UNISON has four types of workplace representative:

1. Steward

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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

 


 

Essential material for activists

UNISON rulebook, and support for new reps
Recruiting 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.

Recuitment tips

  • "Nobody asked me" is still the single biggest reason people give for not having joined a union.
  • The best people to recruit new members are the UNISON members working alongside them.
  • Successful recruiters can influence non-members to join when the union is seen to be active, has credibility, organises in a workplace and actively contacts potential members on a regular basis.

Find out more, including useful resources to help you build the union here...


Tax relief on subscriptions
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.