The majority of people interested in being involved (or active) start off as a workplace representative (or 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. Stewards help to organise their colleagues into an effective, strong and welcoming membership. Stewards will represent members with issues such as absence, disciplinary, grievance.
Alternatively, you might have a passion for health and safety.
Health and safety reps care about workers’ safety and campaign for better working conditions. They play a vital role in keeping our members healthy and safe at work. Safety representatives have specific duties and responsibilities and also have important legal rights. A health and safety representative has the right to training and to raise issues which affect the health and safety of members.
If you are unsure of what to choose or whether you would be the right person for the role, please get in touch with the branch and we are happy to meet with you to discuss this.
Once you’ve made the decision the first step is to complete a nomination form. You will need two UNISON members (who work for the same employer as you) to nominate you. They cannot be active members in the Branch, unless you are struggling to find other members to nominate you in which case the Branch can do this for the first year only.
Once you have your nominations you should post the form to the Branch office or scan and email it.
Come and meet the Branch
You will then be invited to the next Branch meeting where you can come along and meet the other activists and be ratified as a rep. This means that your nomination has been formally accepted.
Notification to employer
The Branch will then write to the regional office to notify them that you have stood as a rep, and the region will in turn notify your employer.
It is worth letting your manager know at this stage that you have stood as a rep and that you will be requesting time off for training.
Apply for training
You are now ready to book onto a training course. The Branch will let you know what dates are available – there are different options available; online, face-to-face one day a week over 12 weeks or a five-day course (occasionally residential). You should complete a study leave request form and submit this as soon as possible. If your manager refuses to grant time off, please contact the Branch.
Your expenses for travelling will be reimbursed by the branch, as well as childcare costs if you incur any above what you would normally spend going to work.
Reps in workplaces where UNISON is recognised by the employer have rights to time off for training.
After your training
The Branch will arrange for you to shadow a more experienced rep so that you can get some insight into different types of meetings. When you feel ready the Branch will start you off with low level sickness cases, until you build up experience and further knowledge. You might feel confident going to these alone or request that someone comes with you for support.
Further training courses are available and will enhance your confidence and knowledge, so that you can then take on more complex cases as time progresses.
Where the union has a recognition agreement, reps have a legal right to ‘reasonable’ time off for union duties.