Most UNISON branch officers, stewards and safety reps will negotiate with employers at some time. It is how you protect and promote the interests of your members. But it is not a skill that always comes naturally.
As a union rep, you may need to negotiate with managers or employers on behalf of your members. These quick facts on negotiating and bargaining will help guide you through the process.
In workplaces where UNISON is recognised, there will probably already be a recognition agreement.
This will set out the procedures for negotiations between management and the unions, and the facilities (such as time off) available to the unions.
Training and support
Negotiating is not always a skill that comes naturally, which is why UNISON provides regular training courses, through the regions, to help support reps in this vital work.
You will not normally be asked to conduct a negotiation alone.
Many branches have negotiating teams made up of branch officers and stewards.
Negotiating is how branches protect and promote the interests of their members.
The keys to success are organisation, preparation and teamwork.
Workplace bargaining and negotiating is a golden opportunity to build a strong local union.
Claims and agreements are a great way of recruiting new members and also getting more members involved in the union.
As a steward you should:
- recruit as many members as possible into the union;
- check all workplaces, departments, work groups and shifts are covered by UNISON stewards and safety representatives;
- make sure that members’ views and concerns are fed into the bargaining process;
- keep members informed of developments;
- canvas members’ views and make sure they are fed back into the negotiation process;
- encourage members to take part in ballots, surveys, etc;
- keep members informed of the outcome of any negotiations.
The negotiation process tends to follow a standard pattern, which falls into four recognised stages.
- Preparation: You need to do careful preparation and research, especially in canvassing the views of your members.
- The opening: One side tables a proposal and the other side responds. This stage can involve adjournments to collect further information and test out arguments. It also includes identifying the relative importance of issues, fall-back positions and ‘bottom lines’.
- Trading: Both sides trade things in order to move from fixed opening positions to an agreement: “We’ll offer x if you’ll agree to y.” Again, there can be lots of adjournments to explore options, test arguments, consult, etc. This stage builds consensus and narrows down the areas of disagreement.
- Agreement: This should include a phase where the final proposal is put to the members and ends with the agreement being documented for future reference.
UNISON’s in-depth guides give you the tools you need for effective negotiating and bargaining with employers.
As a rep, you will not normally be asked to conduct a negotiation alone. It is always better to have back-up and support and a range of skills and experience to call upon.
That is why many branches have negotiating teams made up of branch officers and stewards.
UNISON also provides regular training courses, through the regions, to help support reps in this vital work.
- Apprenticeship policy [PDF]
- Bullying at work [PDF]
- Collective redundancies [PDF]
- Compassionate LeavePDF]
- Contract types (inc agency, fixed term, zero hours) [PDF]
- Disability leave [PDF]
- Disability – Proving disability and reasonable adjustments
- Disclosure and barring [PDF]
- Employment rights – impact of UK exit from EU [PDF]
- Equality and diversity [PDF]
- English language requirement [PDF]
- Facility time [PDF]
- Flexible working [PDF]
- Freedom of Information Act [PDF]
- Gender pay reporting [PDF]
- Harassment at work [PDF]
- Holiday pay [PDF]
- Homeworking Guide [PDF]
- Hours and leave [PDF]
- Information and consultation [PDF]
- Intersex equality [PDF]
- Lesbian, gay and bisexual workers rights [PDF]
- Lifelong Learning (PDF)
- Living wage [PDF]
- Living wage – explanation of the real rate [PDF]
- London allowances [PDF]
- Medical screening leave [PDF]
- Menopause [PDF]
- Monitoring and Surveillance at work[PDF]
- Motor allowances [PDF]
- National minimum wage [PDF]
- Pay claims – outline of economic background [Word]
- Pay structures [PDF]
- Performance related pay [PDF]
- Pregnancy: Your rights at work [PDF]
- Prevent Duty [PDF]
- Procurement process checklist (PDF)
- Procurement Regulations [PDF]
- Older workers guide (PDF)
- Recognition agreements [PDF]
- Redundancy payments – benchmarks [PDF]
- Salary sacrifice [PDF]
- Sickness absence policies [PDF]
- Sickness Absence benchmarks [PDF]
- Statutory Recognition [PDF]
- Stress at work [PDF]
- Tackling dismissal and re-engagement strategies [PDF]
- Transgender workers rights [PDF]
- TUPE [PDF]
- TUPE – guidance on new challenges [PDF]
- Unfair dismissal [PDF]
- Victimisation on union grounds [PDF]
- Violence at work – Its not part of the jobguide [PDF]
- Volunteers [PDF]
- Whistleblowing [PDF]
- Women’s reproductive health issues [PDF]
- Working outside standard hours (unsocial hours, shift, standby, call-out payments) [PDF]
- Working parents [PDF]
- Workload agreement [PDF]
- Working alone [PDF]
Our model agreements can help you when negotiating and bargaining with managers or employers on behalf of UNISON members.
- Model facility time agreement [Word document]
- Model appraisal procedure [Word document]
- Model apprenticeship agreement [Word document]
- Model annual leave agreement [Word document]
- Model capability procedure [Word document]
- Model disciplinary procedure [Word document]
- Model grievance procedure agreement [Word document]
- Model organisational change agreement [Word document]
- Model pay claim [Word document]
- Model recognition agreement [Word document]
- Model maternity agreement [Word document]
- Model fit note agreement [Word document]
- Model procurement agreement [Word document]
- Model equality and diversity policy [Word document]
- Model learning agreement [Word document]
Reports commissioned by UNISON that provide analysis in support of bargaining and negotiating activity
- Consumer Price Indices in the UK – Full report [PDF]
- Consumer Price Indices in the UK summary [PDF]
- Facility time – full report [PDF]
- Facility time – summary [PDF]
- From pay squeeze to staffing crisis report[PDF]
- Impact of Austerity on members report [PDF]
- Lifting the cap report [PDF]
- Outsourcing the cuts report [PDF]
- Pay premium report [PDF]
- Pay progression in the Public Sector report [PDF]