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Get Involved

Official Branch Roles

Some members are elected by their workforce to play different branch roles. Branches must elect certain core officers. They may also create other posts according to their rules. Officers are elected either at the AGM or by postal ballot beforehand.

What roles are there?

Branch Chair

The branch chair facilitates branch and committee meetings, and may also be a senior negotiator. This includes:

  • chairing all meetings of the branch and branch committee, agreeing the agenda for meetings with the secretary and making sure that business is properly conducted in line with union democracy;
  • advising branch officers and the branch committee on procedure and rules;
  • making sure all functions of the branch are carried out;
  • working closely with the secretary and other officers to provide leadership to the branch

Branch Secretary

The branch secretary is the main contact person with the wider union.

They handle branch administration and work with the branch chair and other leading officers to provide leadership. They may also be a senior negotiator.

The details of the role may vary depending on branch size, but typically it will cover areas such as:

  • acting as the strategic lead officer and co-ordinator within the branch;
  • encouraging partnership working within the branch committee and the development of new representatives and stewards;
  • managing any branch staff;
  • managing the delegation of work to other branch officers and branch staff as appropriate, while providing support and guidance;
  • guiding the branch’s development by preparing and implementing a branch organisation and development plan;
  • making sure the representation of members within the branch is in accordance with national guidance and in partnership with regional staff;
  • convening and attending all meetings of the branch and branch committees and making sure proper minutes are kept and circulated;
  • making sure branch records are kept in a proper manner;
  • making sure the branch processes membership applications speedily and accurately and maintains records in accordance with UNISON’s systems;
  • making sure there is regular communication with branch members, including news of campaigns, negotiations, issues, branch developments and activities;
  • communicating with the wider union, including the region and centre, on behalf of the branch;
  • making sure that branch members are aware of opportunities to take part in the activities of the wider union, including self-organisation if appropriate;
  • supporting, mentoring and encouraging stewards and reps in the branch on an individual and collective basis; co-ordinating all branch negotiations and industrial relations matters;
  • leading the branch committee in making sure that the branch observes the union’s rules, supports UNISON campaigns and works towards achieving UNISON’s objectives.

Branch Treasurer

Responsible for managing branch finances, including keeping accounts.

The main responsibilities of branch treasurers include:

  • keeping accounts in accordance with the rules;
  • preparing budgets for defined areas of activities such as welfare, recruitment, campaigning, etc;
  • providing reports on the financial position of the branch to the branch committee or branch executive committee;
  • providing a detailed financial report for the annual branch meeting(s);
  • advising the branch officers and branch committee on matters relating to financial management and appropriate expenditure;
  • providing an audited annual return of branch income

Branch Health and Safety Officer

Promoting health and safety at work is one of the functions of the branch.

Even though employers have clear legal duties to make sure that employment does not cause death, injury or ill-health, health and safety is a trade union issue and not something which can be left to management.

The branch health and safety officer’s role includes:

  • making sure members, safety reps and branch officers are aware of health and safety issues;
  • co-ordinating the activity of safety reps, including making sure that there are enough reps in the workplaces organised by the branch, and convening regular meetings of safety reps;
  • organising the information held by the branch on health and safety;
  • acting as a link between safety reps and other branch reps to make sure that health and safety issues are treated as an integral part of the work of the branch;
  • reporting on health and safety issues at branch meetings, committee meetings and annual meetings;
  • liaising with relevant branch officers about priorities for health and safety training, campaigns and publicity materials;
  • keeping contact with the region and regional service groups, for example via the regional health and safety committee and the national health and safety structures;
  • liaising with the equalities officer(s) to make sure that equal opportunities aspects of health and safety issues are taken into account and vice versa

Branch Young Member's Officer

The role of the branch young members’ officer is ideal for someone who is interested in becoming more active in the union.

The post may be a stepping stone to becoming a steward or taking on wider roles.

The responsibilities include:

  • recruiting new members and organising and encouraging existing young members to become active in the branch and in UNISON campaigns;
  • building a branch young members’ organisation and making sure there are potential new young members’ officers in the future;
  • making sure issues of concern to young workers are raised through the branch;
  • acting as a focal point for all young workers in the branch and workplaces;
  • receiving and distributing UNISON young members’ information.
  • Other branch officers will help in these tasks. Branch young members’ officer must be under 27 years of age for the whole of their term of office.

Branch Equalities Officer

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 equality co-ordinators have a number of important functions. But it is not expected that the office holder will be the fount of all knowledge on every equality issue, nor carry sole responsibility for the branch’s equality work.

Everyone shares responsibility for tackling prejudice and discrimination and promoting equality.

The role of branch equality co-ordinators is to co-ordinate and monitor this shared responsibility. The role includes:

  • being the identified and well-publicised point of contact in the branch for equality issues;
  • collecting and sharing information on equalities issues, including information from the regional and national self-organised groups;
  • making sure other branch officers and the branch committee consider the equalities dimension of everything they do;
  • making sure equality is raised in all collective bargaining – not just in bargaining on ‘pure’ equalities issues;
  • encouraging and supporting the development of branch self-organised groups on behalf of the branch committee, co-ordinating among them and between them and the branch committee;
  • making sure new recruits and potential members know about UNISON’s commitment to equality and the opportunity to take part in self-organisation;
  • advising the branch officers and branch committee on the development and monitoring of the action plan to achieve proportionality and fair representation;
  • co-ordinating the development and training of members from under-represented groups;
  • co-ordinating motions and support for delegates attending self-organised group conferences.

Branch Communications Officer

The branch communications officer’s role includes:

  • explaining UNISON’s policies and providing the information members need to play an active role in their union;
  • helping the branch’s recruitment and organising;
  • supporting UNISON’s national and regional campaigns;
  • creating a positive image for the branch and wider union among members, potential members and the public;
  • producing news-sheets, bulletins or digital communication for distribution to branch members;
  • making sure branch communications are in the accessible formats members need;
  • making sure that centrally and regionally produced publicity, communications and campaign materials are distributed, as appropriate, to stewards, members and non-members;
  • monitoring and liaising with local media.

Branch Welfare Officer

Makes sure that that members seeking welfare assistance receive a prompt, supportive and effective response. This includes:

  • making sure branch officers, stewards and workplace reps, as well as employers, have regular up-to-date information about There for You (UNISON’s Welfare charity) and its range of services;
  • liaising and co-ordinating with the UNISON centre and regions to make sure There for You support is provided effectively;
  • undertaking training and seek advice from There for You where necessary;
  • developing and co-ordinating local welfare activity;
  • developing links with local charities and sources of support such as citizen’s advice bureaus and women’s refuges.

Branch Women's Officer

The branch women’s officer (BWO) offers the opportunity to bring about important changes for women in the workplace. UNISON can provide training for the role, and the BWO can network and work collaboratively with other branch women’s officers in their area. They can become involved in the regional women’s committee/forum or network, attend national women’s conference and help UNISON agree its work plan priorities for the national women’s committee. The branch women’s officer’s role includes:

  • Building links with women’s sector organisations and where appropriate signposting to specialist organisations for women (domestic abuse/Rape Crisis) and assisting in negotiations on employer policies on violence against women;
  • Ensuring that the branch has a wide range of resources for women, such as books, videos and leaflets, and making these resources accessible to all women in the branch;
  • Organising a women’s group and identifying concerns
  • Identifying women members of the branch, and liaising with the branch committee on progress towards proportionality;
  • Being a focal point for women’s issues for members and raising issues affecting women, particularly those with service conditions implications with the branch committee;
  • Supporting women in their issues generally and campaigning on issues that are important to women.

Retired Member's Officer

The retired members’ officer enables retired members of the branch to continue to be active in the union through the branch’s retired members’ section.

This includes:

  • making sure that members approaching retirement have the opportunity to become retired members;
  • organising meetings of the branch retired members;
  • encouraging the participation of retired members in branch activities as appropriate;
  • making links with other retirement organisations in the area and UNISON’s national retired members’ structures;
  • attending meetings of the branch committee;
  • making sure the retired members section functions in accordance with UNISON rules and any branch standing orders and procedures.

Learning Co-ordinator

Helps arrange training courses and education programmes for members, stewards, health and safety reps and branch officers.

The role includes:

  • making sure all new stewards and reps receive information about the branch and their role;
  • publicising the range of educational and training opportunities available to members and activists, and making sure that all reps go on appropriate courses;
  • talking to existing reps about their ongoing training and development needs;
  • organising a plan of training for activists and producing an annual budget to meet its costs;
  • keeping records of what training has been undertaken and by whom within the branch;
  • negotiating with the employer, along with union learning reps on issues relating to learning including time off;
  • supporting and co-ordinating the work of buddies and mentors in the branch.
  • working with colleagues to recruit and organise new learning representatives;
  • being closely involved in negotiating around learning with the employer;
  • making sure members have information on learning opportunities, including UNISON Open College courses, Return to Learn and Lifelong Learning;

Learning Representatives

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. They:

  • find out how lifelong learning could help to resolve issues at work
  • promote learning in a 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

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.

They have some rights to time off for training and carrying out their duties.

Branch Membership Officer

Keeps track of the branch’s membership and works to develop recruitment and organising.

The role includes:

  • mapping the branch’s membership to identify membership density and steward coverage – and where there are gaps;
  • making sure the branch and union has accurate membership records;
  • monitoring the branch’s recruitment and retention rate;
  • working with the branch committee and regional organising staff to develop and implement the branch’s organisation and development plan;
  • making recommendations to the branch committee on recruitment activities, targets, resources, budgets, etc.

International Officer

This officer develops and leads on international solidarity activities including campaigns, twinning with sister unions and support for projects abroad.

The role includes:

  • co-ordinating the branch’s work on international relations;
  • making sure members are informed of national policy on international matters;
  • receiving and distributing relevant information;
  • encouraging members to be aware of the importance of international solidarity issues within the context of the overall work of the union;
  • liaising where appropriate with central and regional international structures and reporting the views of the branch on international activities;
  • liaising with other branch officers concerning publicity and education on international issues;
  • liaising with the solidarity organisations and campaigns that UNISON is affiliated to;
  • encouraging members of the branch to take action and take part in international solidarity activities organised nationally or regionally;
  • developing an international perspective among members, stewards and branch officers.

Elected Workplace Stewards

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 your colleagues into an effective, strong and welcoming membership. They:

  • Are the first point of contact for members in a workplace
  • Talk to members about the union
  • Talk to staff about their issues
  • Offer advice on issues at work
  • Represent members in cases (including at disciplinary and grievance hearings).
  • 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.

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.

Ours are distributed as follows:

West Lindsey - 4 Representatives

East Lindsey - 4 Representatives

South Kesteven - 4 Representatives

Boston South Holland - 4 Representatives

Custody - 3 Representatives

HQ/Witham House - 3 Representatives

FCR - 3 Representatives

CMB - 2 Representatives

Or how about being a volunteer workplace rep or workplace contact?

Our volunteer workplace reps play a vital day-to-day role in helping UNISON members.

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.

Reps also act as a link between members, other union representatives and the national organisation.

Where the union has a recognition agreement, stewards, health and safety reps and learning reps have a legal right to ‘reasonable’ time off for union duties. Good recognition agreements may also allow some time off for union activities – rather than duties – but with will depend on the particular agreement and employer.

Support is available for UNISON reps from your branch and region, as well as more experienced colleagues, and every region runs training courses for reps throughout the year.

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. They:

  • 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

Workplace contacts can and do play an important role in helping groups of members to organise effectively.

If you are interested in any of the roles then please contact Debbie Parker, our branch secretary for more information. Alternatively speak to one of your local workplace representatives.