The role of a steward

The role of a CSP rep is both exciting and challenging: as a CSP steward, you are elected to advise and represent all members of the society who experience difficulties arising from their employment - irrespective of their grade.

What to expect

CSP members look to their steward for advice and support in relation to any workplace issues that arise. You are also the local face of the CSP as well as being our members link with the CSP's regional and national structures. As a CSP steward, you play a major role ensuring the CSP has a strong voice and high profile at local level.

The CSP recognises that our stewards are volunteers with other commitments and we, in return, have a responsibility to advise and support you in your role as steward. To help you undertake your duties as a steward to maximum effect, the CSP provides specific training and other resources.

The demands made on CSP stewards have grown in the past few years, especially in the NHS where reforms have resulted in an increase in local negotiations.

Representing members

Representing members, either individually or collectively, is the core role of the CSP steward.

As a steward you should always be the first port of call for all members in respect of casework and workplace issues. Even where members initially contact the regional steward or the CSP centrally in the first instance, cases will always be referred back to the local steward. Not doing so would undermine you as the democratically elected workplace representative.

Where you are inexperienced in representation, or it is a more complex case and you need advice or support, this is always available: from your more experienced steward colleagues, from your regional steward, your senior negotiating officer, or from other ERUS staff.

The CSP aims to have at least one steward per employer, and more where the employer is large and/or geographically fragmented, to ensure that members have reasonable access to their local representative. See the page on representing members for more in-depth information.

Attending meetings

You are the voice of your members. Your responsibility is to make your members' views and opinions heard, and to report decisions back to them. Stewards should try to attend all meetings of Staff Side (where trade unions meet together) and Joint Negotiating Committees or Partnership Forums (where you negotiate with management) to ensure the CSP is involved in all discussions, decisions and negotiations.

Negotiating with management

Where the CSP is recognised as a trade union for collective bargaining (everywhere in the NHS) the CSP steward will have a significant role in negotiating with management. Ideally, the CSP should have negotiating rights for pay, terms and conditions and local policies and procedures. As a steward you may be involved in negotiations at a number of different levels:

  • with other trade unions during joint meetings with management
  • with your line manager on behalf of individual members
  • with your department manager on behalf of a group of your members.

Recruiting members

As a CSP steward you only represent current, paid-up members of the society. You will need to know which of your physiotherapy and physiotherapy assistant colleagues are and aren't CSP members. As for those colleagues who aren't yet members: it's your job to get them to join!

The strength of the CSP, both as a professional body and trade union, is in its membership: the more members we have, the stronger we are. Maximising membership brings increased professional influence, a stronger bargaining position when negotiating terms and conditions, and increased income to ensure the CSP can continue to deliver first class member services. And your job as steward will be much easier if you are speaking on behalf of everyone in your workplace.

More in-depth information on the steward's role in recruiting can be found on our recruiting members page.

Communicating – with members, the CSP and each other

As a steward you are a vital link in the CSP's communications chain, passing on information to your members, reporting back to the CSP, and sharing learning with your fellow stewards.

As a steward you can expect to receive lots of useful information from the CSP, including a the dedicated newsletter and information papers on a range of employment relations issues.

You will need to keep your members informed of what's happening in your workplace and developments from the CSP or wider world that affect them. You will also need to obtain information from your members, to help guide you in your work, so make sure you involve them in what you are doing.

Follow our top tips to ensure you keep on top of your communications responsibilities:

  • Develop a filing system for all the material/information you will receive as a CSP steward and for all your casework records (you should be entitled to lockable storage under your facilities agreement)
  • Let your members know what is happening – use noticeboards, hold regular members' meetings to find out members' views, email and talk informally to your members
  • Access the iCSP stewards' network regularly
  • Check this website regularly for news and latest developments that may be relevant to you
  • Publicise your successes! If you have negotiated something worthwhile or represented a member successfully,  let the CSP know and share your negotiating tips and experience with other stewards. 
  • Talk to the CSP! Always keep your senior negotiating officer (SNO) informed of all major developments in your workplace/trust. In particular, if you have any problems with negotiations on recognition or seats on negotiating committees or on pay, please inform your SNO immediately. It is much easier for SNOs to achieve a good result in the early stages of a problem rather than being called on to help when a problem has escalated. Remember, SNOs and ERUS staff are there to help you, so if you have any worries or concerns about any issues that you are faced with, please contact them for advice and assistance.

Motivating members

As a steward you play an important role in the workings of the CSP and can act as a champion for the CSP's activities and interests. You may be asked from time to time to drum up member support for a rally in support of public services, or to find a member for a photo shoot or to act as a case study for a piece of CSP research. Your help is always appreciated in this, as it is through real-life involvement of members that the CSP can heighten the impact of its message.

Encouraging members to take an active interest in CSP affairs is not always easy but your energy and enthusiasm will rub off on others. As a steward you may also encourage your members:

  • to be active and to vote in any CSP elections.
  • to attend any relevant CSP meetings
Last reviewed: