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.
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.
To be a trade union official you should:
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.
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