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The employees at a workplace should elect a shop steward to represent them. The shop steward serves as a local negotiator, conciliator and channel of communication between the employer and the employees.
A shop steward should be familiar with current aspects of the sector concerned, including labour legislation and the applicable collective agreement. It is also a good idea to consult the shop steward before signing any new or amended employment contract.
More experienced colleagues can often help in matters of employment when there is no shop steward at a workplace, and even if you have not yet joined, it is always a good idea to contact the relevant trade union when problems arise at work. Regional State Administrative Agencies also provide guidance to employees.
A labour protection delegate must be elected at all workplaces with 10 employees or more.
A union member is generally also a member of one of the union’s branches or local associations. The union branch is your primary platform for active membership, keeping you informed and providing a wide range of opportunities for collective action and lobbying.
By getting involved in the work of your union branch, you will learn the details of the collective agreement in your sector concerning such matters as pay rates, various allowances and bonuses, holiday entitlement and other rights and benefits that you enjoy at the workplace. The union branch defends your rights at work and supervises compliance with laws and agreements.
The union branch can help you lobby for improved pay and working conditions in your sector, and it also gives you a voice in formulating the policies of your national union.
In addition to matters decided at workplaces, union branches and their members influence society in general. Branches may submit policy proposals to their unions and to local SAK organisations, and may also lobby for improvements in labour legislation and other far-reaching reforms.
Union branches arrange a wide variety of activities, including both educational and leisure pursuits such as excursions and cultural outings, sporting competitions and celebrations.