- Represent and advise union members on employment issues and policies
- You'll need a passion for social justice, equality, and workers' rights
- Work in a regional or national setting - with opportunities to move into political roles
Being a trade union official is a job that would suit someone who cares passionately about the rights of others in the workplace, and is often seen as a route into political roles.
- Representing the interests of people who work in a particular industry to make sure that they are treated fairly as employees
- Liaising with employers on issues like health and safety, pay and conditions, equality of opportunity, and redundancy
At a regional level you might:
- Advise on legal or health and safety issues
- Recruit, train and support local officials
- Deal with local disputes and case work
- Work as a learning representative
At the national head office you might:
- Develop national policy
- Carry out research
- Develop learning programmes for members
- Work in media relations
- Negotiate with employers' organisations, political parties and government
You'll usually be mainly office-based, but may also spend some of your time attending meetings and visiting members and union representatives.
There are no set requirements but many trade union officials have a degree or a professional qualification, and you'll need excellent communication, negotiation and listening skills, confidence in public speaking, and the ability to motivate and manage people.
You may be able to join a national head office as a research officer straight from university, if you've got a relevant degree or postgraduate qualification. Useful subjects include social science, politics, economics, human resource management, or law.
You could also move into this role from a variety of backgrounds, including as a 'Shop steward' or local union representative within a specific organisation.
You may be able to apply directly to this role if you've got a background in adult education or training and development, or experience in the voluntary or public sector. For many jobs at national head office level, you'll normally be qualified and experienced in a specialist area like employment or general law, economics, trade union legislation or organisation, media, research, or education and training.
Paid or voluntary experience could give you a head start when you apply for work. Relevant experience could include advice work, student or local politics, mediation and negotiation jobs, or campaigning on an issue that's important to you.
With experience, you could become a regional secretary of your union or move into a post at national head office. You could also move into politics as a councillor or MP.