Member in a union?

It is good for everybody to know the rules of working life, but you still don’t have to cope alone. Help and support are provided by the shop steward in your workplace as well as your trade union. Employees’ strength lies in cooperation. The more employees there are in trade unions, the better the opportunities to strive for pay rises and improve the conditions of employment through negotiations with the employer.  

It is the task of trade unions to make sure that our established benefits, such as annual leave and overtime pay, are maintained in future, too. The unions provide their members with a community of professionals in the same field, the shop stewards’ competence as well as legal services.   

Trade unions negotiate on collective labour agreements that the members can have an effect on. Collective labour agreements have a positive impact on pay, and by joining a union you get to influence on the objectives your union has in the negotiations. In most sectors minimum pay levels, pay rises and working conditions have been agreed in the collective labour agreements which also guarantee a minimum pay level for the employees. 

Members get supported by their union in various situations during their careers, such as job-hunting, unemployment, lay-offs, family leaves or when considering getting retrained into a new sector. A trade union is the shoulder of working life to lean on e.g. when you need help in checking the content of your new work contract or defining your pay request. An expert’s help is only a chat, phone call or email away.  

The role of the trade union is emphasized when members face problems in working life. Members can then ask the shop steward at their workplace or the members’ service in the trade union for help. Trade unions provide legal aid, too, when necessary. 

Employee representative’s duties and election 

The employee representative at your workplace will make sure that the employees are treated fair and equally. They advise and support members in working life and during its changes. The employee representative’s job is to monitor compliance with the collective labour agreement and labour laws at the workplace and to intervene in problem situations. The employee representative is generally called a shop steward. 

If there is no employee representative at the workplace, you can contact the union experts to find out how a shop steward is elected. If it is not possible to elect a shop steward at the workplace, the employees can elect a delegate from among themselves. The delegate’s duties and powers are defined by the Contracts of Employment Act and other labour legislation. They are not as extensive as those of a shop steward. 

Local agreements

Local agreements usually refer to the right within the collective agreement for state civil servants and employees under contract to agree on some issues on the company level. The question may be for example of the opportunity to agree on flexible working hours arrangement at the workplace within the framework defined in the collective labour agreement. Unless locally agreed otherwise, the collective labour agreement provisions will apply.  

Collective agreement for state civil servants and employees under contract provide more and more opportunities for local agreements. Local agreements can be made for example on salary systems, assessment of the job difficulty and on performance-related pay. Similarly, part of the pay rises agreed in the collective labour agreement may have been left to be decided on the company level. Also labour legislation, such as the Working Hours Act and Annual Holidays Act, provide extensive opportunities for local agreements.  

For the agreeing to succeed, the company must have a confidential relationship between the employer, the employee representative and the personnel. Local agreements on the company level require negotiating skills and as equal a position of the parties as possible. Local agreements require knowledge of both collective agreement for state civil servants and employees under contract and labour legislation that shop stewards and other employee representatives who were trained by the unions have.  

Local agreements require: 

  • Confidence and equal positions 
  • Negotiating skills 
  • Knowledge of collective agreement for state civil servants and employees under contract 
  • Knowledge of labour legislation