Companies have employee representatives in various positions and roles, depending on the size of the company. The most common and well-known position is the union steward or shop steward. Personnel is also represented by the occupational health and safety officer and an administrative representative. In an international company, there might also be an EWC representative.
The representatives usually serve for a fixed term. The selection of personnel representatives shall be governed either by law or by the applicable collective agreement. The following participants are eligible to vote for the election of representatives:
|TASK||WHO THEY REPRESENT||WHO CAN TAKE PART IN THE SELECTION|
|Occupational health and safety officer||All employees or the group of employees concerned||Everyone|
|Union steward / shop steward||All employees or the group of employees concerned||The collective agreement defines if non-union members can participate in the selection process|
|Trustee||All employees or the group of employees concerned||Everyone|
|Liaison officer||All represented||All represented|
During the selection process, it is important that sufficient time is allowed for making nominations and for voting, and that all those entitled to vote have the opportunity to take part in the vote.
Union steward/shop steward
Union steward, among other things
- monitors the compliance of the collective agreement
- promotes discussions and co-determination between the company and its employees
- is a negotiating partner when negotiating local terms and agreements under the collective agreement
- represent employees or his/her group of employees during co-determination procedures
- assist the persons they represent in matters relating to employment, such as pay, working time and leave
- supports an employee in the event of a change of employment relationship, such as dismissal or warning
Occupational health and safety officer
The occupational health and safety officer is a representative elected by the employees. The selection of an occupational health and safety officer is based on either the law or the provisions of a collective agreement, which stipulates that a company with more than ten employees must elect an occupational health and safety officer. Also, staff members have the right to choose their occupational health and safety officer.
The occupational health and safety officer, for example,
- monitors the implementation of occupational health and safety legislation and regulations
- represents employees in co-determination talks related to health and safety at work
The occupational health and safety officer shall have the right to suspend work in a situation where the continuation of work poses an immediate and serious risk to the life or health of the worker.
The occupational health and safety manager is appointed by the employer. The occupational health and safety manager and the occupational health and safety officer jointly develop issues related to the safety and health of the workplace. The Regional State Administrative Agency is the authority responsible for monitoring health and safety at the workplace.
Occupational health and safety make the workplace a healthy and safe environment.
The administrative representation is based either on a contract or the Administrative Representation Act. A representative is elected to a corporate governance body that has effective decision-making power in the company. If a representative cannot be agreed between the employee groups, the representative shall be elected by the same procedure as the health and safety officer.
The main task of the administrative representative is to bring the employees’ perspectives regarding business economics to the company’s administration.
An international company must select an EWC representative to the business council composed of employee representatives. The European Works Council (EWC) should be set up in a company with a total of at least 1,000 employees in the European Economic Area, and a minimum of 150 employees in two member states. The activities of the works council are usually the subject of a separate agreement, according to which its activities are organized. The European Works Council (EWC) usually meets once or twice a year in different places across Europe and the language of discussion is often English.
The EWC representative, among other things:
- participates in informing and consulting employees and gives the employer a reasoned and common opinion on the matter together with representatives of other countries
- represents all workers and groups of workers from the country that they represent
- knows the labor market situation and working conditions in their own country and shares this information to other representatives when needed
- keeps in touch with other representatives and networks internationally
If the industry does not have a collective agreement or the collective agreement does not mandate a union steward, a trustee may be elected based on the Employment Contract Act. The operating conditions of the trustee are significantly more limited than those of the union steward, so it is advisable to choose a union steward whenever possible. The trustee may not make local agreements unless he or she is specifically authorized by their representative to agree on the matter in question.
If the workplace does not have a union steward or trustee, or a group of staff does not have its representative, the group can, by majority decision, choose its co-determination representative.
However, it is generally recommended that a trustee be chosen following the collective agreement.