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Acting as a shop steward

The representative of the personnel represents the personnel of the workplace in matters relating to employment and assists the personnel in issues relating to employment. They act as negotiators and contracting parties between employees and employers.

The representative is in different agreements and in legislation, for example, referred by names like (head) shop steward, shop steward, negotiating contact person, elected representative and a contact person.

Election of a shop steward

A shop steward is elected either company or workplace-specifically depending on the sector. The collective labour agreements in the sector determine who can stand as a candidate and who has a right to vote. The term of office of shop stewards is generally two years.

Election of a shop steward

  • When a representative is being elected at a workplace for the first time, it must first be clarified what is being elected and on what grounds (a collective labour agreement or the Employment Contracts Act). It is also wise to discuss with the employer on the election of a shop steward/elected representative.
    It is determined in the collective labour agreements of different sectors who can participate in the election and who can stand as a candidate.

Who may arrange the election?

  • The shop steward election is generally arranged by the previous shop steward or a staff association. At a workplace which does not yet have a shop steward, anyone can be active and seize the opportunity. For example, a staff association or a group of senior salaried employees, a co-operation representative or an occupational safety representative may arrange the election.

Implementation of the shop steward election

  • Before the arrangement of the election it is advised to find out who the elected person represents. In unclear situations, the employer may be asked for a list of the senior salaried employees of the workplace.
  • In the nomination of candidates, the aim is for openness so that all persons wishing to stand as a candidate may do so. A sufficiently long period of time must be reserved for the nomination of candidates, for example, two weeks.
  • If there is only one candidate, the shop steward can be appointed unanimously. If there are several candidates, the election may be arranged either in an election meeting, as a ballot box election or as an online vote via e-mail or the Internet.
  • YTN assists with the organisation of the online election if necessary.

Deputy shop steward

  • According to most of YTN’s agreements, a deputy shop steward may be elected for the shop steward. The deputy shop stewards acts as the shop steward’s stand-in if the shop steward is for a longer period of time unable to handle their duties or no longer continues in the employment. It is also advised to elect a deputy elected representative for the elected representative.

Joint shop steward for personnel groups

  • In some sectors, it has been agreed on a policy where different personnel groups can elect a joint shop steward. Such a procedure should be discussed with YTN’s counsels before the election. A joint shop steward is primarily meant for small companies or workplaces.

Joint shop steward of different companies or workplaces

  • For an especially weighty reason, the same shop steward can be selected for several workplaces or company groups. When planning such an agreement, YTN’s counsels should be contacted and a written agreement between the management and the personnel of all companies involved should be prepared. At least the shop steward’s field of activity, i.e. the companies, should be separately mentioned as well as the contracting and negotiation rights, rights to receive information, time management and disclosure rights as well as the determination grounds for the shop steward’s compensation.

Communication of the outcome

  • The election of a shop steward must be informed to the senior salaried employees of the workplace and to the employer, for example, by e-mail. YTN may be notified in the electronic services. The notice must be given to YTN in order to register to shop steward trainings and receive sector-specific information and invitations to YTN’s events.

In the service industry, the responsible counsel should be contacted before electing a local negotiation representative.

Remember always to communicate the election of a shop steward, an elected representative and the YTN contact person to YTN and to your employer.

 Access to information

The basic principle is that shop stewards are given sufficient information to handle the matters of the persons they represent. Information to be given to shop stewards is set out in the legislation and in some collective labour agreements.

Staff representative’s right to receive information (lead paragraphs open below the titles, clickable subtitles open below the lead paragraphs)

A. What information can I receive on the persons I represent?
Information on the employment terms and conditions based on law and the collective labour agreement. The access to information does not need to involve a negotiation obligation; instead the employer also needs to inform you. For example, it is important for you to see the working hours register.

  1. Salary information – section 11 of the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings
    The employer must give to the representatives:
    • statistical data on the salaries paid to each employee in the personnel group they represent,
    • upon the representative’s request, the salary information of the personnel group classified by occupational groups.
    The personnel or occupational classification of the salary information may not reveal the salary information of an individual employee. Employers tied to collective agreements are entitled to apply the provisions of the collective agreement on providing salary information.
  2. Employment relationships – section 12 of the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings
    The employer must give the representatives of the personnel groups, upon their request:
    • a report on the number of employees in fixed term and part-time employment.
  3. Principles for the use of external labour – section 13 of the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings
    The employer must present the representatives of the personnel groups, upon their request:
    • with an annual report of the principles applied within the undertaking on the use of subcontracted labour. The report must include workplaces and duties and the periods during which the said labour is used.
  4. Use of temporary workforce – section 17 of the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings
    • When the employer contemplates a contract on the use of the temporary workforce, it must inform the representatives of those personnel groups, whose employees’ work would be influenced by the work of the temporary agency workers.
    • The information provided to the representatives of the personnel groups is to include the number of temporary agency workers engaged, their duties and work site, the duration of the contract and the periods when the said work force will be used.
    • The personnel representative has a right to request by the end of the second working day following the employer’s communication, for the contract to be handled in the co-operation negotiations. The co-operation negotiations are to be conducted within a week from the submission of the request (concerns only companies, which regularly have less than 30 employees).Working hours – section 39 of the
  5. Working hours Act
    The working hours register must be shown to the personnel representatives on their request. The employer must give a working hours register, which is to show:
    • the hours worked and the relevant remunerations for each employee,
    • either the regular, additional, overtime, emergency and Sunday working hours and the relevant remunerations, or all hours worked and overtime, emergency and Sunday hours separately and the increases paid for them,
    • the estimated number of monthly additional, overtime or Sunday working hours when an employer has made the agreement with an employee on the remuneration of the additional, overtime or Sunday working hours as a separate monthly remuneration.
  6. Annual holidays – sections 29, 21 and 27 of the Annual Holidays Act
    • The employer must keep records of the employees’ annual holidays and carried-over holidays and the holiday pay and holiday compensation determined on the basis of this Act (annual holiday records).
    • The annual holiday records must show the duration and dates of the annual holidays, the amount of holiday pay and holiday compensation and the basis on which they are determined.
    • The employees or anybody authorised by them have the right, upon request, to receive written details of the records of the employee’s annual holiday and carried-over holiday.

B. What information can I receive on a company?
General information on the company’s situation and financial position both automatically and upon request. You may, for example, ask information on the use of workforce based on a subcontract agreement.

  1. Information on the financial position of the undertaking – section 10 of the Act on Co-operation with Undertakings
    The employer must provide the representatives of the personnel groups:
    • the listed companies’ financial statements or revenue accounts immediately after their publication, the unlisted companies’ financial statements once they have been audited or once tax return becomes due if the financial statements are not audited,
    • at least twice in the course of the accounting period a comprehensive report on the undertaking’s financial situation. The report must show the development prospects for the undertaking’s production, service or other operation, employment, profitability and cost structure.
    • upon request of the representatives of the personnel groups, the employer must present to the undertaking’s entire personnel the development prospects available from the report,
    • changes that deviate from the progress presented in the report.
  2. Act on Personnel Representation in the Company Administration (1990/725)
    • The personnel have the right to participate in decision-making in executive, supervisory or advisory bodies of the company when they are handling matters of importance to the business operations, finances, and the personnel’s position in the company.
    • If personnel groups cannot agree amongst themselves on the election of the representatives, the representatives will be elected similarly to occupational safety representatives.
    • Before a representative can be elected, the number of the regular staff working in Finland must be at least 150.
    •The personnel representatives and the members elected by the company to the administrative body have in principle the same rights and duties.
    • Personnel representatives and their deputies have the right to examine the materials on any issue at hand to the same extent as the other members in the administrative body.
    • Personnel representatives, however, do not have the right to participate in the handling of matters that concern the election, dismissal and contract terms of the management of the company, the personnel’s terms of employment or industrial actions.

C. When should the co-operation negotiations be held and what information can I receive?
Upon the commencement of the co-operation negotiations, you should be given information on the number of planned terminations, lay-offs or grounds for more part-time employments and reduction needs. Remember also that you must be given enough time to review the information received.

  1. Co-operation negotiations must be held when the following are discussed – sections 22, 28, 36, 41 and 47 of the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings, and section 4 of the Working Hours Act:
    • Affects on personnel when they are caused by the closure of the undertaking or any part thereof, its transfer to another place or expansion or reduction of its operations, acquisitions of machinery and equipment, changes in the production of services or product range, arrangement of work or use of external labour.
    • Principles and practices applied in recruitment, the personnel and training plan, use of temporary workforce, the company’s internal communications, the gender equality plan, work assignments requiring drug testing, the implementation of camera or access control, the principles of the use of e-mail or the establishment of a personnel fund.
    • The employer or a representative of a personnel group can present an initiative for negotiations to handle and agree upon the amount, content and allocation of the co-operation training, the working rules complied within the undertaking, rules for suggestion schemes, principles to be following in the allocation of company accommodation, the planning of social premises, the arrangement of catering at work within the limits of the funds earmarked by the employer as well as the general principles for allocation of contributions earmarked by the employer for hobbies and recreational activities.
    Before the commencement of the co-operation negotiations, the employer must give information necessary for the handling of the matter to appropriate employees or personnel representatives.
  2. Business transfer
    The transferor and the transferee must inform the representatives of the personnel groups affected by the transfer of the following:
    • time or intended time of transfer, reasons for the transfer, legal, economic and social consequences to the employees due to the transfer, and planned measures regarding the employees.
    The representatives must be provided with available information in good time before the completion of the transfer.
  3. Co-operation negotiations concerning the termination of employment, lay-offs for the time being and the introduction to part-time employments of at least ten persons
    The employer must give information in writing
    • on the grounds for the intended measures, a preliminary estimate on the number of actions, a report on how the employees subject to the measures are selected as well as an estimate of the time during which the decided actions are taken.
    • in situations concerning the termination, lay-offs or reduction to part-time contracts of less than ten employees or concerning the fixed-term lay-offs of at least ten employees, the information can be given to the employees or their representatives.
    The employers are not obligated to give employees or the representatives of personnel groups such information, the disclosure of which would, impartially assessed, cause significant harm or loss to the company or its operations.

D. Promotion of equality and non-discrimination
If you receive information, for example, about a suspected gender-related salary discrimination, the employer must give information on the person or a personnel group’s salary and employment terms to you. In case of an individual person, the persons in question must be asked for consent to the disclosure of the information and they must also be notified when the information has been received

  1. Gender equality plan – section 6 a and 6 b of the Act on Equality between Women and Men
    The Act on Equality between Women and Men obligates all employers who employ over 30 persons to prepare a gender equality plan together with the personnel representatives. The gender equality plan must include:
    • an assessment of the gender equality situation in the workplace
    • details of the employment of women and men in different jobs
    • a pay survey on the whole personnel presenting the classification of jobs performed by women and men, the pay for those jobs and the differences in pay
    •necessary measures planned for the promotion of gender equality and the achievement of equality in pay
    • a review of the implementation and results of the previous measures.
  2. Right to receive information – section 10 of the Act on Equality between Women and Men and section 7 of the Non-discrimination Act
    • Shop stewards have a right to access information on an individual person with their consent or on a employee group when there is a reason to suspect salary discrimination based on gender. If the information concerns the recruitment of an individual person, the person in question must be notified of which information has been disclosed.
    • Information on someone’s state of health or other personal circumstances may not be entered in the report without the consent of the person concerned.
    • A shop steward, an elected representative or other representative of the personnel who participated in the planning of non-discrimination measures has a right to access information, on request, on what actions the employer has taken to promote non-discrimination in the workplace. The occupational safety representative has the same right.

E. Occupational safety and health activities
Occupational safety requires cooperation. You must be aware of issues and changes relating to safety and health at your workplace. As the occupational safety representative, you may request to see, for example, the plans relating to the development of the workplace and the maintenance of the ability to work as well as information on agreements concerning subcontracting and temporary workforce.

  1. Occupational safety and health documents – section 32 of the Act on occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Cooperation on Occupational Safety and Health at Workplaces
    The occupational safety representative has the right to:
    • have access to the documents and records that the employer is obliged to keep according to the occupational safety and health provisions, such as risk assessment documents
    • become familiar with such documents in the possession of the employer which concern safety and health at work and are connected with the safety of the working environment and work community
    • have access to the employer’s copy of the action plan of the occupational health care as well as of the agreement between the employer and the occupational health care organisation on arranging occupational health care or to the employer’s description of the occupational health care organised by the employer itself
    • receive copies of documents necessary for the management of their duties.

Rights and duties

The shop steward’s rights and duties contain, among other things, negotiation and contracting rights, the right to receive training and the non-disclosure obligations. The shop steward’s rights and duties have been laid down in labour legislation and collective labour agreements.

Negotiation and contracting rights

A shop steward elected on the basis of a collective labour agreement, has a right to agree on and negotiate collectively on behalf of senior salaried employees. The matters in which shop stewards have the contracting right can be checked from the collective labour agreement.

In matters concerning individuals, the shop steward has the right to participate in negotiations on request by the senior salaried employee. The shop steward also has the right to negotiate and agree on behalf of an individual person if that person gives authorisation for it.

According to the Employment Contract Act, an elected representative has the right to negotiate in matters generally concerning senior salaried employees, but agreements can only be concluded by an authorisation separately given for each matter.

Operational capacities and possibilities

Shop stewards are given necessary operational possibilities to handle matters. In practice this means the IT tools, data communications links and other office tools used in the company. YTN recommends that the operational preconditions be agreed on locally. Besides the above-mentioned tools, the shop stewards’ working and storage premises as well as the possibility to use internal communications channels for the handling of their duties should be agreed on.

Release from work

Shop stewards will be given release from work to a necessary extent for the handling of the matters. The amount of the release from work should be agreed with the employer. Especially it must be made sure that the amount of release from work is the amount required by each negotiation situation.

For example, in group termination situations, a right to larger use of free time than is necessary on average must be given due to negotiations under the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings.

YTN’s agreements do not have exact periods of time for the use of free time but locally it must be taken into account, among others, the number of salaried employees belonging to the said personnel group and the character of the operations,

Confidentiality and non-disclosure

In principle, the shop stewards receive access to the information confidentially. There is no reason to communicate it to other companies’ shop stewards. According to YTN’s view, information and conclusions to be made on it can be discussed with YTN’s experts. Various studies can also be responded to based on the information.

Matters relating to the co-operation can be discussed with persons whom they concern. If, upon disclosure, the employer has expressed that the information is trade or business secrets and therefore especially confidential, the shop steward must tell about that when discussing the information with the members.

Personal data cannot be disclosed without the concerned person’s express consent.

Protection of candidates

The candidates of certain sectors (energy and ICT) have an extended protection against the termination of employment (of similar content than during the term) generally for three months before the shop steward election.

Employment protection

Shop stewards have an extended protection against the termination of employment, generally according to the Employment Contracts Act, during their term of office. The extended protection against termination concerns especially collective terminations.

On personal grounds, shop stewards can generally only be given notice of termination if at least half of the senior salaried employees represented by them accept it. In some sectors, the termination of a shop steward’s employment contrary to the collective labour agreement results in a higher duty to compensate than that set out in the Employments Contracts Act.

A deputy has generally the same protection when they are handling the duties of shop stewards but not otherwise. In that situation, the shop steward does not have the extended protection against termination.

Protection extending beyond the term

Shop stewards in some sectors (technology industry, energy and ICT industry) have an extended protection against termination (of the same content as during the term) also after the end of the shop steward’s term, generally for six months.

Right to trade union training

The collective labour agreements generally give the shop stewards rights to participate in the trade union training organised by YTN, the purpose of which is to promote the shop stewards’ possibilities to manage their duties. In some agreements, deputy shop stewards have also been granted an equal right.

Generally, it is stated in the collective labour agreements that the participation in the above-mentioned training takes place without losing salary. Usually, the right to each training is once during the term.

The right to participate in trainings exists if it does not cause significant harm to the company’s operations. When assessing the harm, attention is paid to the size of the workplace, the quality of the operation, the management of tasks and the deputy arrangement. A notice of the intention to participate in a training must be made as soon as possible. In practice, the details on the participation in training are agreed locally.

In some agreements (ICT industry), the right of paid training has to some extent also been extended to persons working in organisation duties.

Right to professional training

Some collective labour agreements separately state that the shop stewards have the right to develop their skills with equal possibilities as other salaried employees. In practice, shop stewards must at the end of the term at the latest negotiate on what kinds of training needs they would have when returning to their profession full-time.

However, the competence relating to the shop steward’s profession should be maintained throughout the entire shop steward’s term in the same manner as the other senior salaried employees of the company do.

Shop steward compensation

The technology industry, design, energy and ICT sectors have agreed on the shop steward compensation. The amount of compensation usually depends on the number of senior salaried employees represented by them.

Compensation is paid to deputy shop stewards when they handle shop steward duties, and the employer has been notified of it in writing. In that situation, compensation is not paid to the actual shop steward.

Right to convene and communicate

According to the Employment Contracts Act, the employees have the right to convene at workplaces in respect of labour market matters. Convening may not cause harm to working. In practice this means that employers must give venues for use (outside working hours). Employers are not responsible for catering and other similar costs.

Employees also have right to distribute notices and notify, besides labour market issues, of matters relating to general questions on the workplace’s bulletin board. In practice, the right to use the company’s ordinary electronic means, such as e-mail and Intranet, is often agreed on locally.

In some sectors, the above-mentioned rights have been specified in collective labour agreements.

Wage development

In some sectors (design and ICT industry), it has been agreed on in the collective labour agreement that the wage development of shop stewards must correspond to the wage development of the company’s senior salaried employees. In practice, shop stewards must during their term and after that compare their wage development to the wage development of the company’s senior salaried employees.

Salary and transfer security

In the ICT industry, it has been separately agreed in the collective labour agreement that shop stewards may not during their term or immediately thereafter be transferred to a less paid position than where they were when elected for the job. They may also, without their consent, be transferred to travel or shift work that substantially impedes the management of the shop steward’s duties.

In some agreements (finance, forest industry and the Basic Agreement), it has been provided more generally that shop stewards are not to be placed in a poorer position than other senior salaried employees in the company due to their shop steward’s duties.

Shop stewards’ introduction process

YTN recommends that in the co-operation negotiations under section 15 of the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings where the information required by new employees is discussed, the process where new employees are reserved a meeting with an appropriate representative of a personnel group to get oriented in the company’s negotiation culture and labour market relations would also be agreed.

Other rights

In some sectors, also other special issues in addition to the above-mentioned have been agreed on in collective labour agreements. Such are, for example, the protection of existing representation systems (energy) and the position of shop stewards in connection with a business transfer (ICT industry).