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Being a shop steward can boost your career and make your workdays more meaningful

Blog post

The position of trust allows the employee to have a say in workplace matters together with the employer. Many workplaces in the private sector will soon be electing new shop stewards. Have you considered running for the position?

A shop steward representing senior salaried employees in the workplace acts as a link between the employees and the employer. They are familiar with the work that is done in the workplace and are equal to the other senior employees, speaking the same language, as it were. The shop steward communicates the views of their personnel group to the employer and is involved in making workplace decisions that concern personnel. The goal is to create a good working environment for everyone. The shop steward may also act as a low-threshold support person for any experts whose well-being is at risk.

In many private sector workplaces, the term of office of shop stewards is coming to an end in December. The shop steward and their deputy are elected in a periodic election in the workplace. The term of office is usually two years.

Hopefully, your workplace has a process in place for organising this election. If this is something new to you, you can learn more about the position, duties and rights of a shop steward on TEK’s website (in Finnish). You can learn more about the election procedure and how to organise an election on the website of the Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff YTN. A shop steward can be elected for the workplaces that are covered by collective agreements.

Language requirements

Being a shop steward requires some level of Finnish, especially understanding written text. Even though an increasing number of documents are translated, some collective agreements and majority of labour legislation documents are only available in Finnish. Legal matters will ultimately be interpreted according to the Finnish texts, should any ambiguities arise. Required level of spoken Finnish depends on the workplace and the overall language policies. 

TEK’s experts will provide advice and assistance in your work as a shop steward in English as well.

Shop steward makes local bargaining easier

Workplaces these days have a lot of local agreements, since many of our collective agreements allow this. Local bargaining is easier if the employer can negotiate and agree on things with a shop steward – otherwise, the employer would need to negotiate and agree on things with the entire personnel group. This can make local bargaining laborious and slow.

Shop stewards can work out a common understanding for the agreements between the employees and the employer. A common understanding is needed in work life not only now, but in the future more than ever.

As a shop steward, you will develop negotiation skills and gain a better understanding of the company’s finances.

Based on the feedback we have received and, for example, the master's thesis written by Enni Nirhola, many of the shop stewards of the Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff YTN consider the work to be fulfilling and rewarding. The position offers a view into the operations of the workplace and the company as a whole. Working in a position of trust adds variety to your work if your role is fairly narrow, even if it is a specialist position that requires in-depth expertise. As a shop steward, you will develop negotiation skills, gain a better understanding of the company’s finances, gain more experience in work life and get a chance to do something meaningful for the future of the entire workplace. Some shop stewards have even found the position useful for their career progression. Knowledge of personnel matters, communication and labour legislation as well as networking skills have opened up opportunities to work in management and leadership positions.

Shop stewards feel that discussing the practices and processes relating to the organisational culture in the workplace with the employer is meaningful. At the same time, they can develop the workplace culture based on the views of their personnel group. Many employers appreciate shop stewards and the suggestions and ideas that they present. Putting these ideas into practice is more productive when they come from an expert within the workplace.

Sounds interesting!

If your workplace does not have a shop steward and you are interested in knowing more, contact TEK. Let's see how you can choose a shop steward for your workplace! 

You don’t need to manage the position on your own, but as a shop steward, you will always receive help and support from the experts at YTN and your union – whether you’re dealing with something small or a bigger issue. We’re here to support you with any work-related matters! We also provide regular training for employee representatives.

The author works at TEK as a work life expert.