Don’t underestimate the power of trade unions. That is the advice of Ivan Israelstam. How should shop stewards be treated? Is it possible to discipline shop stewards? Are there additional requirements before disciplining a shop steward? Is it possible to dismiss a shop steward? This week Ivan explains the rights and responsibilities of shop stewards, and uses an example of a shop steward dismissal he defended successfully at CCMA.
Are there different requirements for disciplinary action against a shop steward, and if so - what are the differences? That is the question Ivan Israelstam addresses this week. Essentially not all infractions by a shop steward would amount to gross misconduct. One example is the shop steward's position during negotiations - in that forum the shop steward addresses management as an equal. So using strong terms to reject management's proposal would not be insubordination. Ivan quotes cases to explain the differences between dismissing a shop steward and dismissing an employee.
The trade union movement in South Africa is extremely powerful. This is not only because of the high proportion of unionised employees and because of the extremely strong legislation supporting unionisation but also because of the political alliance between the biggest union confederation and the ruling party. This week Ivan Israelstam advises employers not to underestimate the power of trade unions.
The term ‘shop steward’ is a colloquial one and refers to the employee elected as the workplace representative by fellow employees who belong to the relevant trade union. The Labour Relations Act (LRA) officially refers to shop stewards as “trade union representatives”, and section 14 of the LRA gives these representatives (shop stewards) a number of special rights.