Published May 19, 2021 at 8:28
Whatever your problem at work, UNISON workplace representatives (reps), stewards and other activists work together to protect the interest of members.
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.
Our activist roles are vital to us, 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. UNISON reps receive complete support from the union, and there is even a dedicated online space called the Organising Space.
Ways to take an active role
In your workplace
Stay in contact with members
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.
Organise your colleagues and make them stronger
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 will help to organise your colleagues into an effective, strong and welcoming membership.
Make your workplace safer
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. To do this you’ll receive expert training and access to help and advice.
Support your colleagues to learn
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.
Stand up for equality
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.
In your branch
Represent women, black members, disabled, or LGBT members
As well as equality reps, some branches have posts for people who are affected by a specific type of discrimination, so that they can organise around addressing it. These roles are women’s officer, Black member’s officer, disabled members officer and LGBT officer.
These posts do not exist in every branch but where they do they play a valuable role in promoting equality. If you feel you could fulfill this role contact your branch to find out how to go about it.
Our retired members either belong to the last branch they part of or to the branch closest to where they live.
Campaign on global issues
UNISON defends public services and fights against austerity around the world, as well as defending human and trade union rights wherever they are under attack.
Branch international officers play a vital role in this. They promote UNISON’s international work and values at branch level and are key in encouraging members to take action, getting international issues onto the branch agenda and encouraging an understanding of the importance of international issues to everyone.
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 wants all branches to have a young members rep to ensure 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.