Why are stewards important?

Stewards are the backbone of UNISON. Without stewards there would be no one there to act as the link between members and the union and to organise and support people in the workplace.

What does a UNISON steward do?

As a steward you:

  • Talk to, recruit and organise members around workplace issues
  • Talk to members about workplace problems, advise them and keep them informed of latest developments
  • Represent members in your workplace
  • Be involved in how your branch and union is run.
  • Attend local workplace meetings, monthly stewards committee meeting, annual general meeting, special general meeting, Branch executive every second month. Might be nominated to a regional or national committee if they are interested.

Will I have to negotiate with my employer?

It helps if stewards go to meetings with employers – it’s usually the best way to talk to them! But you won’t be forced to do anything you don’t want to do and we will offer you training and backup.

Some stewards may be involved in local negotiations or in grievance or disciplinary cases – with training and support from the union. Senior stewards or convenors often take part in negotiations about pay and conditions with employers but this is something you could experience or be mentored in if you would like to play a greater part in your branch.

What if I’m worried I can’t do everything?

Different stewards get involved in different activities depending on experience, skills and time factors.

UNISON is very much in favour of job sharing for stewards. This way you can spread the load, work together and support each other. Job sharing should be agreed with your branch.

You could also consider becoming a workplace contact

What rights do I get as a steward?

In workplaces where UNISON is recognised by the employer stewards have rights to time off for training and to carry out their work, employers normally agree a facilities agreement with unions which details time off which differs between employers, ask your Branch Secretary where this is or if you have any questions regarding what facilities you are entitled to. These include:

  • Right to paid time off to attend union training
  • Meetings with members and management
  • Preparation and research on cases and negotiations
  • Keeping members informed

Do I get any training?

All new stewards are encouraged to go on an induction course and on a course for handling grievances and disciplinary matters.

You’ll receive regular information on training courses covering a wide range of workplace issues. These are run at regional level in various locations.

UNISON runs a comprehensive training programme for stewards and members, for more information on current training available contact Devon County Branch on Tel: 01392 382530 or email:

Who can I go to for support and advice?

Devon County Branch officers, colleagues, workplace contacts, health and safety reps and more experienced stewards will all help you.

Your Regional Organiser, Regional Education Officer, Women’s Officer and branch support teams are based in the regional office and can be approached for assistance through UNISON Devon County Branch Secretary Tel: 01392 383337 or email:

Where else can I get help?

Our UNISONdirect hotline has a special stewards’ helpline open 6am-midnight Monday to Friday and 9am-4pm on Saturday.
Tel: 0800 0 857 857
Text tel: 0800 0 967 968

How do I get hold of information and resources?

UNISON’s produces guides and information sheets on negotiating issues, including a monthly news sheet called Bargaining Update available from Bargaining Support.


How many stewards are needed?

UNISON aims to have at least one steward in each workplace and department. More are needed in larger departments and where members work shifts.

 How do I become a steward?

Talk to Devon County Branch about becoming a steward in your workplace. Stewards are elected each year by the group of members they represent.

Members should arrange a meeting or postal ballot to elect their steward. Proper notice needs to be given so that members can be nominated.

Please fill out this form and return to the branch office to become a Steward. Stewards Nomination Form

Lead steward (in some associated employers)

A more experienced steward, with an additional role as a negotiator. Has more paid time off work. Lead stewards consult with senior management on behalf of all employees, not union members alone. They are sometimes given part-time or full-time secondment to a convenors role for consultative and organising purposes. They often sit on the staff side relating to their employer.

Work with:

Stewards in their area, other lead stewards on their staff side, health & safety reps, branch officers, regional officers, branch office staff and their employer’s senior management.


Meetings with the employer. Stewards committee meetings. annual general meeting, special general meeting, branch executive every month. Might be nominated to regional or national committees.

Stewards List

For a list of UNISON Devon County Branch stewards please click here.

If you have any questions about these duties please contact the Branch Office on 01392 382530, or