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.
- Biometrics factsheet [PDF]
- Benchmarking redundancy payments [PDF]
- Collective redundancies factsheet [PDF]
- Compassionate Leave Guide [PDF]
- Cost of living – factsheet [Word]
- Disability leave factsheet [PDF]
- Disclosure and barring factsheet [PDF]
- Dismissal and re-engagement factsheet [PDF]
- Facility time guidance [PDF]
- Flexible working guidance [PDF]
- Gender pay reporting [PDF]
- Guidance on new challenges to TUPE terms & conditions [PDF]
- Guide to Statutory Recognition [PDF]
- Guide to using the Freedom of Information Act [PDF]
- Guide to bargaining on contract types (inc agency, fixed term, zero hours)
- Harassment at work guide [PDF]
- Holiday pay bargaining advice [PDF]
- Homeworking and teleworking guide[PDF]
- Hours and leave [PDF]
- Information and consultation factsheet [PDF]
- Inflation measures and pay bargaining [PDF]
- Internet, e-mail and social networking factsheet [PDF]
- LGB workers rights factsheet [PDF]
- Living wage guide [PDF]
- London allowances factsheet [PDF]
- Medical screening leave factsheet [PDF]
- Menopause factsheet [PDF]
- Measuring consumer prices consultation [PDF]
- Motor allowances factsheet [PDF]
- National minimum wage factsheet [PDF]
- Negotiating a workload agreement with the employer [PDF]
- Negotiating an apprenticeship policy in your workplace [PDF]
- Negotiating for working parents [PDF]
- Negotiating recognition agreements guidance [PDF]
- Negotiating on shiftwork guide [PDF]
- Pay settlements and average earnings [Word]
- Performance related pay factsheet [WORD]
- Pregnancy: Your rights at work guide [PDF]
- Prevent Duty [PDF]
- Public sector equality duty factsheet [PDF]
- Sickness absence guidance [PDF]
- Benchmarks for Sickness Absence [PDF]
- Sleep-ins and the national minimum wage [PDF]
- Stress at work guide [PDF]
- Tackling dismissal and re-engagement strategies factsheet [PDF]
- Tackling violence at work guide [PDF]
- Transgender workers rights factsheet [PDF]
- The case for in-house services branch guide [PDF]
- The real living wage [PDF]
- TUPE guidance [PDF]
- Unfair dismissal factsheet [PDF]
- Unsocial hours arrangements in public and private sectors [PDF]
- Volunteers [PDF]
- Women’s reproductive health issues [PDF]
Our model agreements can help you when negotiating and bargaining with managers or employers on behalf of UNISON members.
- Model agreement on trade union facility time [Word document]
- Model apprenticeship agreement [Word document]
- Model annual leave agreement [Word document]
- Model capability procedure [Word document]
- Model grievance procedure agreement [Word document]
- Model organisational change agreement [Word document]
- Model pay claim [Word]
- Model recognition agreement [Word document]
- Model maternity agreement [Word document]
- Model fit note 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]