Get involved with your local branch

22Did you know that people in workplaces with union reps statistically earn more, get more holidays, get better training and are less likely to be discriminated against?

Join UNISON’s large network of people across the UK who tackle problems at work and improve conditions for themselves and their colleagues through UNISON.

Being a member of UNISON is more than just a membership card; it’s about what we build together to become a more powerful union. UNISON relies on its members and their time to run the union. UNISON workplace representatives (reps), stewards and other activists are the most important link between the union and its members.

You don’t have to commit a lot of time, or be an expert to get more involved, a little time and a lot of enthusiasm are all that’s needed; give it a try, you’ll be amazed how much you get out of it.

Support your colleagues by helping your UNISON branch

As a UNISON member you are always part of your local branch. Why not get active by going along to a branch event to meet other UNISON members and find out what the branch is doing. You’ll be made very welcome and it’s a great chance to find out more about what the union is doing for you.

If you want to help out, why not offer to lend a hand from time to time. What you do depends on how much time you have. You might be able to help get the room ready for a meeting, hand out information or put up posters advertising branch meetings. Find the details of your nearest branch.

Or you could become a branch official and help members have a stronger voice together. Branch officers organise meetings and run the branch. They are elected by branch members to take on different roles within the branch and to help organise the union’s work.

Among the branch positions are branch secretary, chair, treasurer, equality officer, health and safety officer, education officer and young members’ officer. Many branches have a welfare officer as well. Branch officers receive all the training they need to carry out their job well.

Find out how to get further involved by contacting your branch.

Support your colleagues by taking on an official UNISON role

Want to improve your workplace? UNISON is the way to do it. Whatever your problem at work, from broken central heating to mass redundancies, UNISON workplace representatives (reps), stewards and other activists work together to protect the interest of members.

UNISON’s structure is efficient and well tested, each rep in a branch has responsibility for a different area, and when a problem arises they work together to solve it. Two of the key roles are organising and recruiting new members. Organising means working with members to solve problems together, listening to members’ views, and promoting democracy and participation. Recruiting is vital because greater the proportion of workers who are members of UNISON, the stronger we are when it comes to having our voice heard, and the more likely we are to win campaigns.

These roles are vital, and UNISON will provide you with all the training you need. In most workplaces you have the right to paid time off for this training, and creches can be available. UNISON reps receive complete support from the union, including a dedicated online space called the Organising Space.

Become a workplace contact

If you like working with people, why not become a workplace contact?

The role of a workplace contact is to let your branch know what’s happening in your workplace and to help the union get messages to its members. It’s a good learning opportunity and starting point to get involved in the union.

As a contact you would:

  • share information with colleagues and other UNISON members;
  • keep notice boards up to date with UNISON information;
  • have regular conversations with members in the workplace;
  • support people looking to join UNISON.

Become an elected workplace steward

If you want to help members have a stronger union at work, you could think about trying to get elected as a steward.

Workplace stewards are the heart of our trade union. UNISON’s stewards are the reason we win campaigns that result in better lives for our members and all working people.

As a steward, you would help to organise your colleagues into an effective, strong and welcoming membership.

As a steward you will:

  • be the first point of contact for members in your workplace
  • talk to members about the union
  • talk to staff about their issues
  • offer advice on issues at work
  • represent members in cases
  • campaign for better working conditions
  • recruit and organise new members
  • encourage more members to get active in UNISON
  • raise your members’ issues with the branch.

Make sure your colleagues are safe and healthy

Did you know that at workplaces with trade union health and safety committees, there are half as many injuries than at workplaces that manage safety without unions or joint arrangements?

If you’d like your workplace to be one of the safer ones, the key UNISON role of health and safety rep could be the one for you.

Health and safety representatives care about workers’ safety and campaign for better working conditions. As a health and safety representative, you play a vital role in keeping our members healthy and safe at work.

As a health and safety rep you will:

  • investigate potential hazards;
  • consult members on working conditions;
  • lobby your employer to improve safety;
  • support members with complaints about safety;
  • recruit new members;
  • identify members who could become more involved in health and safety issues.

To do this you’ll receive expert training and access to help and advice.

To find out more about training visit the national unison site.

Support your colleagues’ learning and career development

Union learning representatives, often known as ULRs, are passionate about getting people back into learning – whether it is professional qualifications or basic numeracy and literacy skills.

Learning with UNISON gives members the opportunity to develop and gain new skills professionally and personally

As a learning rep you will:

  • find out how lifelong learning could help to resolve issues at work
  • promote learning in your workplace
  • support members to take up learning opportunities
  • encourage adult learners to be active branch members
  • organise workers around learning
  • support people who want to join UNISON
  • recruit new learning reps.

Stand up for equality in your workplace

Equality is at the heart of the union. We challenge discrimination and win equality in the workplace and beyond.

Everyone shares responsibility for equality in UNISON, but to be as effective as possible at tackling discrimination we also have dedicated equality reps.

If you want to make sure people are treated fairly at work and do not suffer from discrimination on the basis of sex, race, sexual orientation, disability, age, religious beliefs or because they work part time, then you might want to think about becoming a UNISON equality rep

As an equality rep you will:

  • work with your branch to improve workplace and employer equality policies
  • campaign for equality in the workplace and the union
  • promote national campaigns such as International Women’s Day, LGBT History Month and Black History Month
  • work with other reps to ensure your branch is inclusive and accessible
  • support people who want to join UNISON
  • raise awareness of, and talk to members about UNISON’s self-organised groups and forums.

Find out more about equality at UNISON on UNISON’s national site.

Make sure young peoples’ voices are heard

Young people are the ones who have the most to gain, or lose, from what we do in society now.

UNISON’s rules say all branches “shall” have a young members officer to make sure that the issues of concern to young workers (under the age of 27) and student members of UNISON are heard and acted on. If you want to find out more about being a young members’ rep, contact your branch.

If you’re 27 or under, the role of young members, officer is ideal as a way to get more involved in the union. It can be a more informal role than a steward or other workplace representative.

As a young members’ officer you would:

  • represent the interests of young workers
  • help with organising young members in your branch
  • build a branch young members organisation
  • support young people who want to join UNISON
  • campaign on issues affecting young people in your workplace.

So, as you can see, there are lots of ways to get involved – there are thousands of people across the country carrying out these roles and improving the lives of their colleagues, but there’s always room for more.

Find out more about how to become a UNISON rep on the national UNISON site:

Be a workplace mentor, buddy or tutor for new UNISON activists

If you’re already active in your branch, and want to make it even stronger, why not support new reps and activists?

UNISON is committed to making sure that every rep has a named contact, buddy or mentor to support them. Could you pass on your wisdom?

The mentoring system works differently at each UNISON branch; smaller branches have an informal buddy system and larger ones have a formal mentoring scheme.

Contact your local branch to find out how to support budding UNISON reps.