When to access a shop steward
Know Your Rights column
All HEU members have the right to shop steward representation, no matter what collective agreement you are covered by.
That’s why it’s important to know who your local shop stewards, or site reps, are. And even more importantly, under what circumstances do you need to contact a shop steward for support.
Shop stewards are there to provide guidance to members, defend their contract rights, file grievances, and advocate for those whose rights have been violated.
Most HEU-negotiated contracts have language that specifies how many shop stewards are mandated based on the number of members at each local or work site, such as facilities Article 5.05 and community health Article 2.6, which state that one shop steward for every 50 members may be appointed, with a minimum of two and a maximum of 25 shop stewards.
That means large locals like Royal Jubilee Hospital, for example, would have more shop stewards than a smaller work site like Fleetwood Place.
When members are called into a management meeting that could be disciplinary, they must receive at least 24 hours’ notice of their right to shop steward representation (facilities, Article 5.12). Most employers know when meetings require shop steward attendance, but not all employers adhere to those collective agreement provisions.
If you’re unsure, it’s best to check with a shop steward. Your shop steward may advise you that the employer has the right to talk to you, in certain circumstances, without union representation.
Not all meetings require shop stewards to accompany workers. But if you’re in a non-disciplinary meeting that turns disciplinary, you have the right to stop the meeting and request a shop steward.
Shop stewards are the first line of defense, and they work closely with HEU servicing representatives to protect workplace rights.
If you want to become a shop steward, there are educational opportunities available for training through the union. Check the union’s website, under Education. Local Executives appoint shop stewards and must approve members’ education requests.
“Union Recognition and Rights” are found in Article 5 (facilities), Article 2 and Article 10.6 (community health) and Article 3 (community social services). Members covered by independent, First Nations or contract support services, should refer to their collective agreements for information.