Trade union officials represent the interests of their union’s members.

What does a trade union official do?

Trade union officials or officers work for a trade union, representing the interests of union members. They discuss any issues with employers, such as health and safety, pay and redundancy.

At regional level, trade union officials might:

  • advise on legal or health and safety issues
  • recruit, train and support local officials and shop stewards
  • deal with local disputes and case work
  • work as a learning representative, promoting learning and education programmes to local members

At national head office level, this role might:

  • develop national policy
  • carry out research
  • develop learning and education programmes for members
  • work in media relations
  • negotiate with employers’ organisations, political parties and government

As a part-time union official (often known as a shop steward or representative), you’ll be elected by local trade union members to pass on the views of the staff to the management of your company. You will have a legal right to conduct union business during working hours.​

What do I need to do to become a trade union official?

There aren’t any specific entry requirements for this role, but a lot of trade union officials have a degree or a professional qualification.

It will help you to get started in this career if you have experience as an unpaid local representative, also known as a shop steward. This will give you in-depth knowledge of the workings of the union at ground level. It’s quite common to then apply for and move up to a full-time paid official role at a union's branch or regional office.

There is a lot of competition for full-time roles, so relevant paid or voluntary experience could give you a head start when you apply for work.

Related skills

  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Patience
  • People management
  • Problem solving

Where to find out more

Where could I be working?

You could work for unions at local, regional or national level. National posts are often based in London.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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