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Trade Union Official Profile


This Section of the site details information that you might find useful if you are looking to secure employment or require further details regarding working as a Trade Union Official. This page details the following Information:-

  • Finding Suitable Work as a Trade Union Official
  • Working Duties Expected
  • Hours and Environment
  • Working Skills Required
  • Training Requirements
  • Salary Expectations
  • Trade Information
  • Other useful Trade Union Official Work Information

    Finding Suitable Work

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    Working Duties Expected

    Trade unions exist to represent the interests of their members in discussions with employers over such matters as:

    • pay and conditions of service
    • contracts of employment
    • working practices
    • health and safety in the workplace
    • equal opportunities
    • education and training
    • disciplinary and grievance matters
    • dismissal procedures
    • redundancy.

    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 the company. They usually have an job within the company but have a legal right to undertake union business in working hours.
    Trade union officials are full-time employees of the union, acting on behalf of the members.

    Officials who represent the union at regional level might:

    • recruit workers and organise them into branches
    • arrange for the election of local officials
    • provide professional support to the local officials
    • train shop stewards or representatives
    • become involved in local disputes
    • negotiate individual cases or wider issues such as union agreements
    • advise on legal matters and health and safety.

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

    Hours and Environment
    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.

    Skills and Interests
    You must have a genuine interest in the welfare of people and in the aims and objects of the union you represent. In addition you should:

    • 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, pensions etc
    • be methodical and patient in your approach to problem solving.

    The two main routes into trade union work are via branch or regional office or by joining the staff at head office:

    Headquarters staff are usually qualified in the work in which they specialise. This may be employment or general law, accountancy, economics, trade union legislation, organisation, media, research or education and training.

    They may have qualified and worked in these areas of work beforehand or they may be direct entrants from further education with either a degree or equivalent such as NVQ/SVQ level 3 or 4.

    An increasing number of trade union officials have degrees - entry requirements for a degree are five GCSEs (A-C)/S grades (1-3) with two A levels/three H grades or equivalent. The most relevant subject is labour studies but economic history, business and management may also be welcomed.

    For details of qualification equivalents see:

    Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
    Scottish Qualifications Authority
    An Access to Higher Education qualification may also be accepted for entry to certain courses. If experienced in a related field, you may be able to gain recognition of skills through Accredited Prior Learning (APL). Please check with colleges or universities for exact entry requirements.

    Workers at union headquarters may also have worked their way up through the organisation from branch or regional office level.

    Branch or regional office staff will have spent several years involved in union work in an unpaid capacity, either as a representative or shop steward. They will have an intimate knowledge of the workings of the union at ground level.

    There are no upper or lower age limits and many trade union officials enter full-time union employment after gaining experience on a voluntary basis. Evidence of negotiating skills or advice work in a voluntary or work setting is valuable.

    Training is mainly on the job. This is supplemented by regular short training programmes run by the employing trade union, by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), or by commercial training organisations. The TUC programmes cover subjects such as negotiating, bargaining and communicating, health and safety, industrial tribunals and employment law.

    The TUC has its own National Training Centre in London, with further regional training centres around the UK.

    NVQs/SVQs at Level 3 in Developing Union Organisation and Level 4 in Supporting Workplace Organisation and Representation are available. Officials who manage support staff are encouraged to gain the qualification M1 of the Management Charter Initiative (MCI). Other NVQs/SVQs may be available in administration or relating to the work of the industry that the employing trade union represents. Trade union officials may get financial support to sit other professional exams that are relevant to the job, such as personnel or training qualifications.

    Part-time union positions are easier to find than full-time employment. Employment trends are decreasing and the number of unions and union members is falling.

    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.

    Annual Income
    The annual income section is intended as a guideline only.

    New entrants may start at around £12,000.
    Policy officers may earn around £20,000.
    Trade union officials in senior management positions may earn £30,000 or more.

    There is no set pay scale for trade union officials.

    Further information
    Trades Union Congress (TUC)
    Organisation and Industrial Relations Department
    Congress House
    Great Russell Street
    WC1B 3LS
    Tel: 020 7636 4030

    Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC)
    333 Woodlands Road
    G3 6DF
    Tel: 0141 337 8100

    Employment National Training Organisation *
    Kimberly House
    47 Vaughan Way
    LE1 4SG
    Tel: 0116 251 7979

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

    National Training Organisations (NTOs) ceased to be recognised by the government on 31 March 2002. However, some are continuing to operate in their respective fields. Please contact individual NTOs with queries regarding their current status.

    The Secretary of State for Education and Skills is licensing new Sector Skills Councils - charged with boosting skills and productivity in business sectors. For information about Sector Skills Councils, their roles and responsibilities, please visit the Sector Skills Development Agency website:

  • Other Useful Trade Union Official Work Information

    We have a section available at this site on Trade Union Official job interview tips that you may find of interest should you wish to brush up your skills in this area and we also have number of career articles that may also be of use to you from within our guides and documents section.

    Locations where we feature Jobs include:-
    Aberdeen, Berkshire, Aberdeen, Bath, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Cardiff, Central London, Cheltenham, Cornwall, Coventry, Derby, Devon, Docklands, Dorset, Dundee, Durham, East Midlands, East Sussex, Edinburgh, Essex, Glasgow, Gloucester, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leeds, Leicester, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Midlands and in various parts of the West Midlands

    Details of other Trade Union Official Jobs can also be found in other UK wide areas including:-
    Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Norfolk, North London, North Midlands, Northampton, Northamptonshire, Northern Ireland, Northumberland, Norwich, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Oxford, Oxfordshire, Plymouth, Salisbury, Scotland, Sheffield, Shropshire, Somerset, South East, South London, South Midlands, Southampton, Staffordshire Surrey, Swansea, Swindon, Telford, Wales, Warwickshire, West End, West London, West Midlands, Worcestershire, York and throughout Yorkshire.

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