Democracy and elections

UNISON is proud to be a “member-led union”. Democracy is central to our structure and our achievements have been reached as a representative, democratic union where everyone has an equal voice.

2018 service group executive elections

The election procedures and forms are available to download below.

Branches should ensure that the names of the branch chairperson and secretary are current and up to date on the RMS.

This is because nominations will only be accepted if they are authorised by the branch secretary and branch chairperson, and these names must correspond with that recorded on the RMS.

If your branch is an RMS user this information should be entered locally. If not, please contact your regional office and ask them to amend their records as soon as possible.


Key dates


2 March 2018 Deadline for submission of nomination forms, candidate forms and election addresses
5pm, 23 March 2018 Deadline to appeal to the Returning Officer (where any nominations have been ruled invalid and candidates have been ruled ineligible)
16 April 2018 Voters are told about the elections
23 April 2018 Voting starts
30 April 2018 The start of the voting helpline for members.
12noon, 15 May 2018 The end of the voting helpline for members.
5pm, 25 May 2018 Voting ends
5pm, 5 June 2018 Deadline for any written complaints to be sent to the Returning Officer
12 June 2018 Voters and candidates are told the results




Contact the member liaison unit at the UNISON Centre. Telephone 020 7121 5399. Email

UNISON democracy

All members have a right to make the decisions which determine the work we do. This ties in with our key principles.

  • Equality – we all deserve to be treated with respect and fairness.
  • Solidarity – we support each other at work and in society.
  • Democracy – members each have a right to make the decisions that shape their union.
  • Participation – we share our skills, commitment and creativity to build a stronger union.

Branches, regions, service groups and self-organised groups can develop policy within their own ‘sphere of influence’.This means they develop and promote policy according to the needs of their own members, as long as these comply with UNISON’s rules.

They can affect UNISON’s broader policy in elections and conferences.


We make decisions by voting to elect members to particular positions within UNISON and to decide policy.

As a member of UNISON, you could stand for election to a number of different bodies:

  • the regional council;
  • the service group executives;
  • the national committees of our member groups;
  • if you are a member of Labour Link, you could stand for election as a regional Labour Link representative.
  • the national executive council.

Equality is at the heart of the union’s beliefs. Since women make up two thirds of the UNISON’s membership, two-thirds of all of the union’s elected bodies must be women. We call this proportionality.

Two-thirds of the seats on the NEC, the union’s ruling body, are reserved for women and 13 seats are reserved for low-paid women. But all members are able to vote for these candidates in their regional or member group constituencies. All members are also able to vote for the national seats on the NEC for Black members and disabled members.

UNISON holds elections for its general secretary, national executive council (NEC), service group executives (SGE) and the Labour Link committee in England, Scotland and Wales.

These decide on issues and campaigns, oversee the running of the union and works with UNISON staff to support members. They represent UNISON to the wider world.

NEC, service group executive and Labour Link committee members are elected every two years by all eligible members of UNISON via a postal ballot.

The general secretary term of office is five years.


Every year, delegates from all over the UK are elected by their branch, region, service group or self-organised group to the national delegate conference.

This is where we vote to decide our policies and campaigning priorities.

If a member wants to develop a policy by having a motion considered and adopted by a the national delegate conference or relevant service group conference, they can once they have:

  • made sure they have support from other members in their branch, by having it adopted at a branch meeting;
  • submitted the motion to the relevant conference.

The nomination period for election of the union’s service group executives will open on Monday 29 January 2018. The nomination period closes at 5pm on Friday 2 March 2018.

Please note that these will be the first national UNISON elections where members will have the option to vote online or by post. Instructions on how to vote online will be provided to members nearer the time.