Your union is made up of people like you. The people who lead the union are elected by members. And the people who make the union work are the workplace representatives, also known as delegates,or sometimes they are called shop stewards.
Workplace representatives are chosen by other members in their workplace to be the on-the-spot representative of your union.
The role of a union representative
Union reps are volunteers. They do not receive extra pay for their work as reps, though may be entitled to time off with pay to undertake at least some of their duties as a representative.
Your union reps are there to:
- build union membership in the workplace by promoting the benefits of union membership
- discuss any concerns you have with your manager
- accompany members to disciplinary or grievance hearings with support and advice from the union leadership
- talk to your manager to try and find agreements to resolve any workplace issues
- engage with your manager to develop best practice on various workplace issues, such as health and safety.
Your workplace may also have a separate health and safety representative.
Why union reps are important
Union delegates are very important. They play a critical role in any workplace by:
- increasing union membership in their workplace, thereby helping achieve better outcomes for members
- providing information and advice
- being available to accompany members to meetings with the employer where they feel they need support or representation
- reflecting back to the union officials both the issues and problems, and the views and aspirations of members in the workplace.
Union representatives can also make a very important contribution to creating productive and rewarding workplaces.
Most employees want to make their workplace better. They want it to be a good place to work, and if they are given the chance, will mostly be willing to apply their firsthand knowledge and expertise to doing so.
The union rep can be a conduit for this feedback to management, working with them to create good solutions that work for employees and improve their jobs, and which add value for the employer.
We are not going to solve the problems of today using the same thinking with which we created them. Union reps can play a key role in creating the new thinking we need to solve the problems of tomorrow.
What union reps do
Apart from the roles outlined above, union reps may:
- talk to new employees about the benefits of union membership
- distribute or display information from the union about social or industrial issues of importance to members and prospective members
- recruit new members to the union
- consult with other members in the workplace about relevant issues
- represent the interests of members to management.
Employees must not be discriminated against for being a union member or union representative.They are protected in law.
They may also be entitled to paid leave to undertake training relevant to their role as a union rep.
Responsibilities of union reps
With rights comes responsibility. Workplace union representatives need to act in good faith, and to do the best they can for their work colleagues either as individuals or as a group.
You can go with a member to a meeting with your employer.They have the right to be accompanied, for example at meetings where:
- your employer wishes to discuss a disciplinary charge against the member wish to raise a grievance with your employer.
- your member has a complaint to pursue about their employment
Who is my union delegate?
To find out who your delegate is, contact the union on 039663 6815