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