A UNISON steward is an elected representative whose role includes organising, recruiting and representing members. Stewards in workplaces where UNISON is recognised by the employer have rights to time off for training and to carry out their work.
Stewards have a right to be involved in how their branch is run and are the most important link between the members and the union. UNISON aims to have at least one steward in each workplace and department, more in larger departments and where members work shifts. Stewards are elected each year by the group of members that they represent and the post is open to job share. Stewards engage in different levels of activity depending on their experience, skills and the time they are able to commit.
A UNISON steward should seek to be the first and main point of contact with the union for members. They will also recruit and organise new members and work with members to establish an organised workplace. He or she will support and advise members on workplace issues, both individual and collective. They will act as a spokesperson for the members they represent and inform and involve members in branch activity. They will represent members with the employer, depending on their experience and confidence, and represent members within the branch committee. They will also be answerable to the members they represent.
Being elected as a steward gives a workplace representative access to training by UNISON, regular UNISON mailings – including Focus, UNISON’s fortnightly newspaper – and access to UNISON advice and information. Support from a UNISON organiser will also be available should they face serious problems at work.
Stewards working for employers that officially recognise UNISON also have rights to paid time off for training, meetings with members and managers, and some other union work. They have use of employers’ telephones, email and internal mail, access to an office and lockable facilities at work and recognition as a UNISON representative.