Brit dopers - what's a General Secretary of a Staff Union?

Been exchanging genealogy emails with a Brit who is probably a 12th cousin 7 times removed or something along that order. His business card identifies him as the General Secretary of XXX Staff Union.

What does that mean? Can you compare it to some similar position in the USA if you know of one?

Thanks! :slight_smile:

A staff union is a union which represents workers according to employer, rather than job type.

IOW, everyone in his union works for the same company (or did).

A normal union has officers just like any other organization- a president, treasurer, (recording) secretary, etc. Some organizations have a general secretary rather than a president.

In other words, he’s the elected representative of a (probably small) trade union.

It could also mean a union that represents “staff” (ie white-collar) workers as apposed to industrial (blue collar) workers.

This was the way when I started my working life. You had industrial (factory-floor) workers who were paid weekly, and “staff” (mainly supervisory and office workers) who were paid monthly.

Two such examples of this type of union were the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs (ASTMS), and the Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Staffs (TASS).

This website gives more details :- MSF

Thanks for the information.

From what I’ve encountered in my reading, and a Brit with hands-on experience is requested to correct this as needed, usually the General Secretary of a union in the U.K. is the chief operating officer, the guy who runs the union on a day-to-day basis. It may have any assortment of other officers with various titles who work at a union-represented job and serve the union “after hours”, but normally the G.S. is the guy whose regular 40-hour-a-week full-time employment is with the union, not the business(es) whose employees the union represents.

Yeah. The general secretary is the president of the union, and in large unions this could well be a paid post. It would depend on whether there were enough members of the union to pay for a fulltime post.

The GS may not be the only paid post, for instance the GS could have a staff of his own to assist him. The big unions like UNISON have lots of staff, purely because of the huge number of members and the number of branches and the amount of work that these produce.

In fact many Unions have both a President and a General Secretary - see the Union I’m in Prospect - and I think the relationship is sort of Chairman to Chief Executive. Certainly in Prospect Paul Noon, the General Secretary, is the full time public face of the Union and appears on TV and radio etc. while the President, Graeme Henderson, is a manager in the UK Health and Safety Executive.

I would be surprised if there were any significant Unions where the General Secretary - and a whole lot of others - were not full time paid employees of the Union.

I’m an idiot. My union, UNISON, is the same, it has a President and General Secretary. The President chairs the executive council.

Thanks for clearing that up.

Some unions in the past have elected presidents for life - their working life, but these have become rarer because unions have been merging and amalgamating over the years.

The General Secretary is the person who does the legwork such as arrange and attend meetings with senior managers or politicians, and instigate or direct strategy.

The President generally has the role of ensuring that the Union constitution is upheld, rather like a non-executive Chairperson.

Its rare for there to be much differance in terms of outlook and ideology between these two, but I have seen it happen and it can end up with some serious problems, and that’s when the rule books have to come out and put before the National Arbitration Services.

This structure in PCS union is replicated all the way down to the local representatives, where each workplace will have a Branch Secretary and a Branch Chair, there are of course lots of other posts but they tend to revolve around the agenda set by these officials.