In the role of a shop steward you need to be outgoing and responsible
"As shop stewards we have a lot of responsibility for the wellbeing of the working community. I hope shop stewards understand this and I would like those who apply for this position to be outgoing and responsible", says shop steward Simone Klimpel-Koskela. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma.
Simone Klimpel-Koskela is a shop steward at a multilingual workplace. She lists five points that she thinks are important in being a shop steward.
Flexibility in both directions. I get enough time from my employer to take care of my duties as shop steward. I appreciate having a good boss and fair shift managers, and I can organise shifts to fit in with people’s everyday situations. But you have to be flexible yourself, then it all works out.
Problems can be solved by talking them through. I’ve never found it hard to talk even about difficult issues, and I think I can talk to just about anybody. The job of a shop steward is to discuss and search for solutions to problems. So, there’s no point in waiting, it’s better to sort things out straight away. Usually you can find a way by discussing matters. The worst thing is if rumours start spreading or someone falls ill because a matter isn’t resolved. But this can be prevented. If there’s a problem, employees shouldn’t accept just anything, they should tell their shop steward about it. That’s what we are there for. If there’s no shop steward at your workplace, you can always turn to PAM.
Taking responsibility. I became shop steward at the Radisson Blue Plaza because the previous shop steward wanted me to take over. I was elected to the position, and I am now in my third year. Trust doesn’t come by itself, you need to build bridges between your employer and your coworkers. We shop stewards have a lot of responsibility for the wellbeing of the working community, and therefore I would like those who apply for this position to be outgoing and responsible. It could be that I will stand in the shop steward elections in the autumn, let’s see.
Other language backgrounds needed. I would like to see people who are not native Finnish speakers applying to be shop stewards at their workplaces. In many countries trade unions and shop stewards are not known, so at first it might seem unfamiliar. But being a shop steward can be rewarding, and if you are at all interested in employment issues, you can put your heart and soul into it.
Perspective. I used to work in a law firm in Germany, so I know quite a lot about the legal side. For my shop steward role, I have studied areas including Finnish employment legislation and dismissal procedures. My daily commute takes about three hours, so I have often spent the train journey with my nose in a book. I have attended PAM’s basic and advanced courses for shop stewards, where I heard how badly people can be treated. That was an eye-opener. Employers don’t always understand that employees are the people doing the work every day and making the company’s profits. Appreciation and incentives make employees more motivated.
Shop steward and occupational safety and health elections will be held at workplaces in autumn 2019. If needed, elections can be held at any time, for example if a shop steward resigns or a new shop steward post is created. Read more here.
Simone Klimpel-Koskela. Who is she?
• restaurant employee and shop steward at Radisson Blue Plaza, Helsinki
• Born in Germany
• 42 years old
• Lives with her family in Hausjärvi at a rescue farm (Goat Shit Farm)
• Leisure activities include animal care, making goat cheese and building projects
• Joined PAM in 2011 because she wanted to make sure she had adequate employment security.