Developing responsiveness through organisational structure
A UNISON case study

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Page 4: Job roles within a trade union

Unison 17 Diagram 10Within most large organisations there are roles at different levels within the hierarchy such as directors, managers, team leaders, supervisors and operatives. UNISON is no different. The qualities and skills needed for these roles are different. For example, those at the top of the hierarchy will have to think more strategically and may need greater leadership skills than those lower down. UNISON’s job roles are specific to the aims of the union.

Local organiser

The local organiser reports to the area level. This post recruits and supports members at a local level. Personal qualities needed include:

  • problem-solving skills
  • communication skills
  • ability to act on own initiative
  • resource management
  • general understanding of issues facing trades unions and employers.

Area organiser

The area organiser reports to the regional level. This post organises work across branches as well as region-wide campaigns and events. Responsibilities include representing members in negotiations and claims and helping the region to deliver its operational plan. Personal qualities required also include skills in research, analysis and developing materials as well as communication and negotiation skills.

The best part of my job as an area organiser is supporting members and giving them the skills, tools, knowledge and confidence to stand up for themselves and others. I get a real sense of pride when I am supporting branches and members through difficult times.’

Unison 17 Diagram 3Regional organiser

The regional organiser reports to the regional manager. This role builds and organises branch memberships. Key responsibilities involve supporting and mentoring activists, running regional projects and managing the team. Regional organisers require strategic thinking skills. They will also need to be able to manage resources and teams of people.

Regional secretary

The regional secretary is the senior official in the region. As regional manager, he or she leads the Regional Management Team and sits on UNISON’s Senior Management Group (SMG). The SMG is chaired by the General Secretary. The role here is one of strategic and national development and communication of policies. This person needs leadership qualities to go with the high level of responsibility. He or she needs high level problem-solving, critical thinking and communication skills. The post holder will typically have worked as a senior manager to develop these skills.

All roles include the need for some physical skills (such as lifting or ability to travel) but, in accordance with equality policies, these can all be modified for anyone with a disability. Having a disability is no bar to employment with UNISON.

UNISON | Developing responsiveness through organisational structure