Wednesday, 20 June 2007


What is a shop steward?

Shop stewards are the keys to member control within a union.

Shop stewards are workers elected by their comrades. Unlike some higher ranking officers and officials whose duties take them away from the workplace, shop stewards continue to be strong and confident worker leaders at the workplace level. They make sure that what workers want in their workplace is reflected in the direction that the union takes.

Who can be a shop steward?

Being a shop steward is a serious responsibility. It demands a rare kind of temperament and discipline that not everyone has. It is a commitment of service to fellow workers. A shop steward must not be shy to stand up for the rights of other workers. Shop stewards lead, while not being too proud to listen to workers who elected them.

When it is time for rewards, a shop steward is always the last, but when it comes to sacrifices a shop steward is always the first to make them, including giving up personal time.

While being a shop steward is a sacrifice, it is also the door to achieving greater challenges and responsibilities. It is hard to find a high-ranking union officer or official in the world that did not serve as a shop steward. The discipline and spirit of a shop steward is what should carry the best comrades into leadership positions.

What are the duties of a shop steward?

Shop stewards maintain vigilance so that no employer can slip anything by them that may discriminate against or hurt a worker. Shop stewards defend fellow workers in disciplinary and grievance procedures. When they sit next to a worker in a grievance or disciplinary hearing, they bring into the room the collective support o their entire constituency for their comrade who is in distress

Shop stewards are also the guardians of agreements between companies and employees. They are the eyes and ears of the union at the workplace, making sure that the provisions agreed to are being carried out by the company.

Shop stewards build unity among all workers, recruiting new members to strengthen the union’s voice at workplace level.

Finally, shop stewards are the vital link that brings the mandate of the workers up to the union leadership and reports back to the shop floor on decisions taken based on this mandate. That is why shop stewards are the backbone of a union, without which it cannot stand.

Can a union have Shop Stewards without company approval?

If unions were to depend on company approval for their functions, unions would not exist. Shop Stewards are union officers and their mandate and powers come from workers, not from employers. We may not yet have the full facilities (time off, office space and equipment) for Shop Stewards, but we can also not wait for pre-approval to elect the structures mandated by our union constitution. Member control cannot wait.




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I attended a meeting because I saw people going to a boardroom, The problem is that I was on my way home and I didn't know anything about the meeting.

I think we need to improve the communication channels that we are using, come the 26th end of business peoplle will still be asking if we are going on strike. We surely have a datebase of all the names that we can send emails to.