Purpose – This empirical paper aims to explore the effectiveness of the organising model from a worker perspective in unionised workplaces within higher education support services. Design/methodology/approach – A case study approach is used in two university Unison branches. Three themes were used to measure the efficacy of the organising model: participation, identification with the union, and union effectiveness. Findings – The findings were mixed in terms of the success of the organising model in this setting. In terms of the three themes of analysis, there was strong instrumental participation in union matters at the workplace but a lack of deeper penetration of the wider organising agenda in terms of identifying with the union, represented by half the respondents only feeling the salience of their union membership at the workplace. Most respondents felt their union was effective at the workplace in terms of improving pay and conditions but the effectiveness of broader union building aims as proposed by the organising model was not endorsed. Research limitations/implications – The implications for the organising model from this research are that there need to be more resources and effort delivered at the workplace level through reps and members to make it truly effective and sustainable. Originality/value – This research adds to a body of knowledge concerned with workers themselves and how they experience trade unionism at their place of work with the focus of their experience examined through the lens of the organising model.