UNISON members are people working in the public services, for private contractors providing public services and the essential utilities. They include manual and white collar staff working full or part time in local authorities, the NHS, universities, colleges and schools, the electricity, gas and water industries, transport and the voluntary sector.

Most people join a union because they want protection at work – help with pay and conditions of service, legal or health and safety advice or representation in case things go wrong at work. That’s what we’re here for. UNISON negotiates on pay and working conditions at every level – local, regional and national. But we also do a lot more. Being a UNISON member gives you a range of benefits and unbeatable deals.

Every member of UNISON belongs to a local branch which is made up of people working for the same employer.

Local stewards are there to represent you at work and help find the answers to your problems. They are volunteers and play a vital role in recruiting new members and organising your branch. If you have a problem, talk to your local steward. If they can’t handle the problem on their own, they can talk to other branch officers or full-time union experts on your behalf.

Anyone can face problems at work sometimes but if you are a member of UNISON, you don’t have to face them alone. We can provide advice or representation on things like pay, rotas, leave and sickness procedures. We are also there to help you make sure your workplace is healthy and safe, support you in case of disciplinary action, dismissals or redundancy

UNISON support for new members: what can you expect?

We’d like to clarify the level of support new members of the union can receive. Once you join us, for the first four weeks of your membership you are only allowed up to 30 minutes of either telephone or email advice on any issue of concern. After four weeks, you’re entitled to the full support available to any member of the union, up to and including full representation and legal advice.

Why do we restrict early support in this way? Unfortunately, we’ve had several cases brought to our attention involving new members, where we have given a higher level of early support due to the nature and complexity of the issues they raised.

After our intervention, and once those issues had been resolved, some of those members immediately left the union, having got the result they wanted. We believe this is an unacceptable to union membership, so the Branch Committee has changed the way we handle new members.

The same 30 minute service applies to new members who join with a pre-existing issue. That is, if you join in the knowledge that something has happened to you, or will happen to you even after the four week qualifying period has expired, if you then subsequently seek the union’s support to deal with a pre-existing issue it will be limited.

Union membership is not something you can dip in and out of when events at work happen which you need advice and support on. The union provides a huge range of membership benefits and makes a big difference to every aspect of your working life due to the work we do with employers negotiating on your behalf.

In summary, we give limited assistance to members who seek help with a pre-existing issue, as we view it as seeking insurance when you need to make a claim.