The trade union and the employees who are union members are represented at the workplace by a shop steward whom the workers have elected in their midst. The shop steward is the primary representative of the staff. The services of the shop steward are only available to the union members.
The shop steward’s status is based on cooperation legislation and on the shop steward agreements which the trade unions and the employers’ federations have jointly negotiated.
The purpose of the shop steward framework is to maintain and develop cooperation and negotiation practices between the employer and the employees. When negotiating with the employer, the shop steward will only represent the unionised staff, i.e. the employees who are members of the trade union. However, in cooperation negotiations the shop steward may represent the whole personnel.
In general, shop stewards carry out their union work in addition to their own job. Full-time shop stewards are called convenors and they are usually found in large workplaces.