What are reps?

Representatives (reps) are members who have volunteered to take a more active role in the union. They are crucial in getting members’ views heard at a local and national level.

Reps’ key tasks include:

  • listening and acting on workplace priorities
  • representing members if they have a problem at work
  • helping to ensure workplace fairness
  • recruiting potential members
  • monitoring health and safety.

Every rep is a key link between the union and its members. At the most basic level, a rep might simply distribute union literature to a group of members in their workplace.

At the other end of the spectrum, a rep might handle personal cases and negotiate pay. A number of other roles fall between the two extremes and all of them make an important contribution to the union’s work.

Some roles involve the basic activities of running a branch – arranging and attending meetings, recruiting and organising or keeping members informed. Others deal with specific issues such as training and development, equalities, pensions, environmental policies or corporate social responsibility.

We are always conscious that reps are volunteers. Some can give a little, others can give a lot. Each person must find their own boundaries. But to most people, the role of a local representative includes one or more of the following elements:

  • Advice: not necessarily able to answer all the questions, but knowing where to look for the answers.
  • Representation and advocacy: standing by a member’s side or speaking on their behalf.
  • Negotiation: helping to improve local working conditions.
  • Liaison and consultation: passing information upwards, downwards and sideways; representing members’ views to management.
  • Organisation: organising the branch, strengthening its position in the workplace.
  • Democracy: representing members’ views in developing the union’s policies.

Some reps fulfil just one of these functions. Others, with experience and the appropriate support from Prospect, can fulfil all of them. It is for you to choose the level of your involvement.

Why are reps so important?

It is often said that a union is its members and this is, of course, true. But it is just as meaningful to say that a union is its representatives: the active members who give their time to protect and advance the interests of their colleagues.

With more than 4,000 reps and around 250 paid staff, we would not be able to do the work and provide the service that we do without these reps.

Prospect’s ability to achieve positive change in the workplace doesn’t just depend on well-reasoned arguments. It springs from strong organisation – without that, our influence declines.

Interested in becoming a rep? Find out more