Branches are the bedrock of the union: without them there would be no union to support members at work and negotiate for a better deal.
UNISON members are automatically members of one of our 1,200 branches. Branches locally organised groups of members. They are sometimes made up of members working for one employer, such as a council, NHS trust, police force, university or utility company. However, most branches cover members working for a number of employers based in a particular geographical area and providing similar types of services.
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.
Branches may also employ staff to support branch administration and organising.
Where branches do employ staff, it’s important for the branch to be able to carry out normal employer’s responsibilities properly and with the minimum fuss.
However, UNISON recognises that few, if any, branch secretaries volunteer for the role so that they can become an employer or manager.
Most will need help and guidance on what they need to do, so to lighten the load for busy branch secretaries, the union has negotiated a scheme with a company, XpertHR, that already provides employment advice to UNISON managers.
Branch committees meet monthly and are responsible for running all branch business between full members’ meetings.
Normally all stewards are members of the branch committee, though large branches may be divided into sections, with a representative from each sitting on the branch committee.
Where that is the case, stewards in each section will meet as a section steward committee and have their own representatives directly elected onto the main branch committee.
Branches are also encouraged to develop organisation among under-represented groups such as women, Black members, LGBT members, disabled members, young members and retired members by setting up self-organised groups.
These can also elect officers to the branch committee.
Most branches will have a dedicated branch office and may employ staff to administer and run it.
All branches must have at least one members’ meeting a year. This is the annual general meeting, which is held between 1 January and 31 March.
Branch responsibilities are set out in the UNISON Rule Book and the Code of Good Branch Practice.
All large branches are expected to establish section structures that reflect the range of employers and/or employers’ departmental structures so that members can organise more effectively.
Stewards in each section then meet as a section steward committee and have their own representatives directly elected onto the main branch committee.