Why are stewards important?Stewards are the backbone of UNISON. Without stewards there would be no one there to act as the link between members and the union and to organise and support people in the workplace.
What does a UNISON steward do?As a steward you can:
- Talk to, recruit and organise members around workplace issues
- Talk to members about workplace problems, advice them and keep them informed of latest developments
- Represent members in your workplace
- Be involved in how your branch and union is run.
Will I have to negotiate with my employer?It helps if stewards go to meetings with employers - it's usually the best way to talk to them! But you won't be forced to do anything you don't want to do and we will offer you training and backup.
Some stewards may be involved in local negotiations or in grievance or disciplinary cases - with training and support from the union. Senior stewards or convenors often take part in negotiations about pay and conditions with employers.
What if I'm worried I can't do everything?Different stewards get involved in different activities depending on experience, skills and time factors.
UNISON is very much in favour of job sharing for stewards. This way you can spread the load, work together and support each other. Job sharing should be agreed with your branch.
You could also consider becoming a workplace contact and see how much you're willing and able to do. To find out more go to Workplace Contacts
What rights do I get as a steward?In workplaces where UNISON is recognised by the employer stewards have rights to time off for training and to carry out their work. This includes:
- Meetings with members and management
- Preparation and research
- Keeping members informed
Do I get any training?All new stewards are encouraged to go on an induction course and on a course for handling grievances and disciplinary matters.
You'll receive regular information on training courses covering a wide range of workplace issues. These are normally run at regional level.
Contact your regional education officer for more information.
Who can I go to for support and advice?Colleagues, workplace contacts and more experienced stewards, health and safety reps and branch officers will all help you.
Most branches will make sure that reps have details of local union officers who can give prompt advice and guidance.
Your regional organiser, regional education officer, women's officer and branch support teams are based in the regional office and can be approached for assistance through your branch secretary.
Where else can I get help?Our UNISONdirect hotline has a special stewards' helpline open 6am-midnight Monday to Friday and 9am-4pm on Saturday.
Tel: 0845 355 0845
Text tel: 0800 0 967 968
How do I get hold of information and resources?
- UNISON's produces guides and information sheets on negotiating issues, including a monthly news sheet called Bargaining Update available from Bargaining Support.
- You'll find free online employment advice for members and the public at our website www.troubleatwork.org.uk
- UNISON's magazine inFocus will keep you up to date with all the latest news and developments. Go to inFocus
- U magazine is the magazine for all UNISON members, including stewards. Go to U magazine.
How many stewards are needed?UNISON aims to have at least one steward in each workplace and department. More are needed in larger departments and where members work shifts.
How do I become a steward?Talk to your branch about becoming a steward in your workplace. Stewards are elected each year by the group of members they represent.
Members should arrange a meeting or postal ballot to elect their steward. Proper notice needs to be given so that members can be nominated.