It’s not us, it’s all about YOU!

What on earth is a UNISON service group? And what have they got to do with you? As it turns out, quite a lot actually

letters saying vote

If you’re a UNISON member you should have had an envelope through your letterbox from UNISON’s general secretary asking you to vote in yet another election.

Yes, we know there are a lot of elections at UNISON but that’s because of the way it’s set up.

UNISON is your union. That means that you get the chance to be involved in the major decisions. One of the key ways you do this is by electing your representatives onto one of the union’s service group executives. These elections happen every two years and the next ones are now!

Now at this point you may already be subconsciously wanting to click onto Facebook to see the amazing things your friends are up to. But hold on. UNISON is about protecting you at work. But it’s also about trying to improve things at work for you. Making things better.

You might well be one of the many members in local government or the health service who’ve been asked your opinion recently about proposed national pay rises. It’s the people who are elected in these elections who’ll be speaking up for you when the time comes for future pay talks. So have your say in choosing who they are.

But first of all, what is a service group

As a UNISON member, you’re one of almost 1.3 million people, all of who work to provide or support public services in one way or another. That’s one thing you have in common with your fellow union members.

But if you’re a school meals workers, for instance, at least some of the things that affect you at work are going to be different to those facing a midwife in a hospital, a trading standards officer for a local council, a 999 call handler… or any one of the thousands of jobs in thousands of workplaces up and down the country.

So everyone who is a member of UNISON is also a member of a “service group”. UNISON has seven of these service groups:

  • health care – including hospital porters, nurses, midwives, paramedics and cleaners and the whole NHS team;
  • local government – including workers in schools, FE and sixth-form colleges, refuse collectors, people who work for town, district or county councils, and a whole lot more;
  • community – covering members who work for charities, housing associations, non-profit organisations and grant-aided projects;
  • police and justice – people who work for the police service, the probation service or the child and family courts advisory and support service (often known by its initials: CAFCASS);
  • energy – mainly covers people working in the electricity and gas industries, from clerical and administrative staff to senior managers;
  • higher education – the service group for everyone who works at a university or other higher education institution, including on contracted-out services;
  • water, environment and transport – from lock keepers to environmental scientists, water company staff, people working at regional airports or for passenger transport executives.

And what about the executives?

The executives of the service groups are made up of ordinary union members elected by you to oversee the work of the service group and make sure you get the support you need. They are also in charge of national negotiations on things like pay and terms and conditions.

UNISON is proud to be a union whose key decisions are made by the members; whose actions are decided by you.

Each executive aims to proportionally represent both women and low-paid members, reflect differences in the size of different regions and maintain a balance between manual and non-manual workers: so the number of seats you’ll be able to vote for and who is standing in them will differ from service group to service group and region to region.

But don’t worry – your ballot pack will contain all the information you need. This is your chance to have your say on who will represent you and to make sure UNISON gets the big decisions right and does what you want it to.

We know that your time is precious BUT, voting in these elections only takes a few minutes and we’re asking as many of you as possible to take part so you can be confident that the important decisions that affect you will be made by people you help to choose.

When does the election take place and how do you vote?

Voting is open now and it closes at 5pm on Friday 25 May. And you’ll be able to vote in one of two ways.

One is the traditional way: filling in the ballot paper and posting it back in the paid-for envelope that comes with it, so that it’s received by the deadline.

This year, we’re also offering you the chance to vote online. Information on how to do that is included in your ballot package and here.

And there’ll be a telephone helpline for members running from 30 April to 15 May. The lines will be open from 6am to midnight on Monday to Friday and 9am to 4pm on Saturday. The number is 0800 0 857 857, textphone 0800 0 967 968.

We should also mention that the elections are run independently by the Electoral Reform Society so no one will know how you have voted.

But what if you’ve not received a ballot paper?

This happens – and there are three possible reasons.

  1. Only one person has been nominated for the regional or other constituency you’re in, so there’s no voting taking place.
  2. Nobody has been nominated – this isn’t good, but does sometimes happen. What it does mean, though, is there’ll be a by-election in the future, and you’ll get a chance to nominate someone through your branch, or even ask to be nominated yourself, and use your vote then.
  3. Something’s gone wrong – again not good, but it sometimes happens, and it’s one reason why the helpline is there.

If you’ve not received your election pack by Monday 30 April, or information on how to vote online, give the helpline a call – they’ll be able to work out what the issue is and find a solution.

Further information

We hope this has been a useful insight into the wonderful world of service group executive elections.

If you have any further questions please ring UNISONdirect on 0800 0 857 857 or visit this page.