The 'supreme government of the union', the annual general meeting, meets for one week in the year. So what happens for the other 51 weeks?
The union is run by the national executive committee (or 'the executive'), which consists of the president, the general secretary, two assistant general secretaries and sixteen representatives: twelve from the general grades, four from the maritime grades.
A detailed list of the powers and responsibilities of the national executive commitee can be found in Rule 4 of the union's rule book: broadly speaking, it is responsible for the general administration of the union.
The general and maritime grades representatives stand for election in a geographical area and get elected for a three-year term of office. During this time, the NEC members are released from work and paid a salary by the union.
A record of the decisions made in NEC meetings is sent to branches every month. They are also posted in the members area of this website. Branches can appeal to the annual general meeting against decisions made by the National Executive Commitee.
NEC meetings are the way in which the business of the union is dealt with, whether it be discussing the progress of a particular set of pay negotiations; formulating recruitment strategy; deciding what motions to put on the agenda of the TUC congress; or setting the membership subscription rates.
Members of the National Executive Commitee are elected by all the members in the geographical area they represent and, as such, they are accountable to that membership. They attend and make regular reports to their regional councils, as well as being involved in their region's recruitment activities. It is at these meetings that they can be asked for further details about issues that have been dealt with and, if necessary, called to account for their decisions.