The Shop Steward is the first 'port of call' if a member has any kind of difficulty or concern in their workplace. The Shop Steward will try to resolve the issue in a mutually acceptable way. If the Shop Steward cannot solve the problem in discussion with the supervisor or manager, then the matter will be referred to the Union Branch Organiser and to further levels of the Union, if necessary.
The Shop Steward does not have the power to authorise a work stoppage or any other action likely to lead to a dispute - unless he or she has first got the approval of the Sector Organiser. The Union's Rule Book lays down specific procedures for these situations. And, of course, in any event, the initial decision to take industrial action should be the subject of a secret ballot vote by the members concerned.
The Shop Steward plays a vital role in the relationship between workers and employers. In many cases, personal difficulties between a worker and a supervisor may be alleviated by the Shop Steward. Intervention by a Shop Steward can often prevent a minor irritation becoming a major problem. The Shop Steward is also the vital link in the chain between the members and the Union - keeping members up to date with the latest developments in the Sector or in the Union as a whole - including new membership services and benefits.
To enable Shop Stewards to carry out these important functions, the Union's Education and Training Department provides special courses which equip Shop Stewards with the skills and the knowledge to represent their members effectively.