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How to become a Trade Union Official

trade union official careers

What does a Trade Union Official do?

Trade union officials, or officers, are full-time employees of the union, acting on behalf of the members.

Part-time officials, called shop stewards or representatives, are elected by trade union members. They pass on the views of the workforce to the management of their company, and have a legal right to undertake union business during working hours.

Trade unions exist to represent the interests of their members in discussions with employers over a range of issues including pay and working conditions, health and safety, equal opportunities and redundancy.

Officials who represent the union at regional level are involved in the recruitment, election and training of local officials and shop stewards and offer them continual support. They may become involved in local disputes and case work, and can advise on legal or health and safety issues.

Those employed by the head office of the union are concerned with broader issues concerning national policy, research and negotiations with the main employers’ representatives, political parties and government.

What's the working environment like working as a Trade Union Official?

A union official's basic week is 35 hours, but in practice more than 40 hours is common, and often includes early starts, evenings and weekends.

Union officials are office-based but spend time travelling to employers' premises to meet members and union representatives/shop stewards, attend meetings and visit members at their place of work.

A driving licence is usually required.

What does it take to become a Trade Union Official?

To be a trade union official you should:

  • have political awareness and a genuine interest in employee welfare
  • be self-confident and approachable
  • have excellent communication, negotiation, interviewing and listening skills
  • enjoy meeting people - often in challenging situations
  • be confident when speaking in public
  • be able to inspire trust in both members and employers
  • be able to motivate and manage support staff and local representatives
  • have analytical skills to research and process information
  • have numerical skills for dealing with pay or pensions issues
  • be methodical and patient in your approach to problem solving.

Trade Union Official Career Opportunities

New positions are not frequently advertised externally as new entrants have usually been involved with the union in some other capacity.

Trade union officials may become regional secretaries of their union, i.e. managing other officials, and there are a few national posts, usually based in London.

It is possible for trade union officials to move into similar jobs in professional bodies, or to move into personnel work. Some move into politics as councillors or members of parliament.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Trade Union Official that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Trade Union Congress (TUC)
Congress House
Great Russell Street
London
WC1B 3LS
Tel: 020 7636 4030
www.tuc.org.uk

Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC)
333 Woodlands Road
Glasgow
G3 6NG
Tel: 0141 337 8100
www.stuc.org.uk

Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU)
Northern Ireland Committee
3 Crescent Gardens
Belfast
BT7 1NS
Tel: 028 9024 7940
www.ictuni.org

ENTO
Kimberly House
47 Vaughan Way
Leicester
LE1 4SG
Tel: 0116 251 7979
www.ento.co.uk

Courses to help you become a Trade Union Official