Harri Kaarre (vasemmalla), Mika Mäntymäki, Marko Honkalampi ja Marko Määttä juttelevat viikonlopun ylitöistä CATR-kammion (Compact Antenna Test Range) edessä. Oranssit piikit ovat absorbereita, jotka vaimentavat signaalit.
In Oulu. Harri Kaarre (left), Mika Mäntymäki, Marko Honkalampi and Marko Määttä talk about working overtime on the weekend in front of the CATR chamber (Compact Antenna Test Range). The orange spikes are absorbers for absorbing signals.


News article

Work life. Many mistakenly fear that working as a shop steward will stand in the way of career progression, says Marko Honkalampi. “It doesn’t, as I myself can testify.”

Marko Honkalampi has a master’s degree in technology and is a shop steward and the leader of a team of 20 at Nokia’s unit in Oulu. In his opinion, there is nothing strange about this combination.

“It’s an old-fashioned thought that shop stewards are somehow working against the company. A shop steward and a team manager do not play against each other either. They’re both working for the good of the company and its employees. If the company’s performance improves, there will be enough work to go around and workers may even get better pay.”

I recommend becoming a shop steward to anyone who is interested in addressing common issues and defending a larger group of people or who simply wants to try something new.

Honkalampi says that as a team manager he also tries to look after the wellbeing of the employees. The team needs to have the right tools, plenty of meaningful things to do and a good work-life balance. 

“I keep having to ask employees to take it easy on a weekly basis. Now that they’re allowed to work overtime, some want to keep at it all weekend. I recently had to slow one of them down after they had been working for three weeks straight. They said they could have used the money, but they understood where I was coming from.”

As a shop steward, Honkalampi’s role is somewhat different. He represents over three hundred Nokia workers in matters such as cooperation negotiations and salary issues between the employees and the employer. In this role, the aim is the same: to make sure that all is well with the employees.

“As a shop steward and a team manager, you need to keep the two roles separate. Naturally, I cannot represent my own team as a shop steward, but another shop steward at Nokia does this. I myself represent the employees of an entirely different department. I lead a team that does product testing, but I represent people who develop software.”

Dismissals are always hard

Marko Honkalampi started working as a shop steward at Nokia back when he was still one of the workers. After being promoted, he had to think twice about whether he could continue in the position.

“This is definitely the highest level in which I can both hold a management position and represent workers as a shop steward. This is what both the HR team at Nokia and TEK said when I asked them about it.”

The toughest situations are the ones where someone has to be made redundant as a result of change negotiations. The last time this happened was last spring.

“Senior management informed us that a certain role at Nokia would be abolished entirely and that the person in this role should be dismissed no matter how good of an employee they were. Nokia has a great policy for dealing with these situations, as skilled individuals may be employed in another role through the six-month Nokia Bridge scheme. This is what happened to this person as well, and as the shop steward, it was a big relief for me to know that they found a job.” 

Although the employees are familiar the name of the game at Nokia, dismissals are always hard.

As a shop steward, I’ve also been able to influence the number of layoffs during change negotiations so that it has been reduced or moderated. I’ve achieved defensive victories like that.

“The person being made redundant rarely accepts the situation even when the redundancy is due to their role being abolished and not their performance. Many think that the employer is making the wrong decision and ask ‘why me’. Employees have the right to ask the shop steward to accompany them to a layoff meeting, but very few people invite outsiders to the meeting.”

At the end of last year, Nokia carried out extensive change negotiations and announced a savings programme and the intention to reduce payroll by up to 14,000 jobs by 2026.

This time, the negotiations did not concern any employees represented by Honkalampi. Some of the previous negotiations have been a success on his part.

“As a shop steward, I’ve also been able to influence the number of layoffs during change negotiations so that it has been reduced or moderated. I’ve achieved defensive victories like that.”

Salaries can also be influenced

Honkalampi much rather enjoys the situations where he gets to decide how money will be distributed. The role that he plays also matters in these situations.

“As a team manager, I can approve some raises based on performance, but as a shop steward, I’ve been able to address lagging salaries when we’ve agreed on local pay settlements. We’ve been able to negotiate higher increase rates for the lowest pay grades.”

Honkalampi spends about 15 per cent of his working hours on his shop steward duties.

“We have flexitime, but I try to take care of my duties as a team manager and as a shop steward during office hours without working overtime. According to HR, I could devote up to 30 per cent of my working hours at Nokia to my duties as a shop steward, but I try to be efficient so that 15 per cent is enough. I've also delegated some of the tasks to individuals who want to improve in their job.”

According to Honkalampi, the attitudes towards his double role vary among team members.

“Some are wondering how this is possible, but most of them don’t. But I cannot be any different in my role as a leader than the other leaders. I try to be a humane leader and fiercely defend my team, even during change negotiations.”

More shop stewards are needed

Honkalampi became a shop steward ten years ago when a colleague suggested that he run for the position. In practice, he became a candidate in the shop steward election of the workplace and was elected. The choice was made easier by the fact that there were no rival candidates.

The situation is the same in many workplaces today: there are no more candidates than there are positions to be filled. There is a constant need for new shop stewards.

“People don't have the courage to get involved. Too many fear that working as a shop steward will stand in the way of career progression. You can still progress in your career, as I myself can testify.”

The Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff YTN aims, together with its member unions, to double the number of employee representatives by the end of 2025. There are currently just over 1,500 representatives.

“If employers want more local bargaining, we will also need more negotiators on the employee side. Employers should also make an effort to increase the number of shop stewards. I can't imagine managers themselves addressing the issue, but the message could come from HR, for example.”

Honkalampi himself decided to become a shop steward, because the job sounded exciting and interesting.

“This has given me so much. I’ve gained memorable experiences and had my share of excitement. I recommend becoming a shop steward to anyone who is interested in addressing common issues and defending a larger group of people or who simply wants to try something new. If you’re not interested, don't bother.”

Marko Honkalampi katsoo kameraan.
Don’t hesitate. Marko Honkalampi believes that you should not hesitate to run for shop steward. “Go ahead and do it. You can start out as a deputy shop steward. This will also put you at a vantage point and you can learn more before you take the reins.

Become an employee representative and earn more

The shop steward system is based on agreements between labour market organizations.

In practice, shop stewards represent senior salaried employees in employment-related matters and questions regarding the application of the collective agreement and act as personnel representatives, as referred to in the Co-operation Act.

Shop stewards are better protected against arbitrary dismissal than regular employees and they are also entitled to a separate compensation for performing their duties.

“The amount of compensation is staggered according to the number of employees that they represent. The compensations paid to shop stewards who are members of TEK vary from approximately 79 to 444 euros, depending on the industry and the number of employees represented,” says Sirkku Pohja, TEK’s work life expert.

“Some collective agreements also allow you to agree on a different compensation. Collective agreements also include provisions on the working facilities of shop stewards, the use of tools, the use of time, training and access to information.”

Are you interested?

Becoming a shop steward usually requires some level of Finnish skills. 

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