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Roles in UNISON


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Nationally, the union produces a regular reps' magazine and weekly email newsletter, as well as other support and information for reps.

Get campaigning

Are you a UNISON activist? Involved in your branch or community? Want to organise a local event around an issue? Or are you running a local campaign?

If so, we have lots of advice, guidance and useful resources available to you.

Campaign resources (link to national campaign website)

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Who's who in the branch

You can see the list of branch roles and who is currently in those positions here...