What matters can a shop steward help with?

A shop steward is a neutral intermediary between employers and employees, as well as union lawyers. Their job is also to prevent expected conflicts.

Text eeva ylitalo Images university of jyväskylä / petteri kivimäki, teija laitinen, jarmo kiuru
Translation Marko saajanaho

Panu Moilanen, JUKO shop steward at the Jyväskylä University, YLL

A shop steward provides advice on matters such as fixed-term employment criteria and payment. Various conflicts, inappropriate treatment, misunderstandings, and changes in working methods may require contacting a shop steward. Often, the starting point of the discussion is what the collective agreement says about the matter at hand. Just a small reminder to the manager can sometimes solve the issue.

Many who came from abroad do not know they have a right to shop steward support as union members. A fixed-term employment contract may also make the employee less inclined to let the cat out of the bag. On the other hand, many believe shop steward services are for everyone, despite them only being meant for union members.

Teija Laitinen, JUKO shop steward at the University of Vaasa, Finnish Union of University Professors

I help union professors and people on the tenure track with all employment-related matters. Part of my job is to ensure agreements and laws are followed in the workplace. I co-operate with representatives from other staff groups, regularly meeting with the university’s management. This helps solve many issues before they begin to cause trouble.

When dialogue between the employer and the employee becomes necessary, there is often a specific matter that causes disagreement. In those cases, I also offer mental support to the employee. If the problems concern the interpretation of employment contracts, in tenure track models for example, our member often wishes the shop steward to be present during discussions. When more difficult issues emerge, I can turn to the Finnish Union of University Professors.

Jarmo Kiuru, JUKO shop steward at the University of Lapland, FUURT

Common problems for academics include short-term employment, unemployment periods, and questions related to full-time employment. People ask me about changing job descriptions and salaries. One of my responsibilities is to ensure parity and equality. For example, if a fixed-term employee takes family leave, they must also be paid a salary for the family leave period.

People often consult a shop steward on matters related to working hours and lecturing services. Many find it difficult to turn down work even if their workload is excessive. Taking leave and leave entitlement also raise questions.

I get involved in situations where the manager fails to recognise the limits of their power. Situations in which there are no ways to address the problems are challenging. These might include, for example, incompetent leadership.

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