Officers in trade unions are the specific representatives who have the responsibility to represent the interests of the members of a union through collective bargaining over the terms and conditions of employment (Dessler, Goodman & Sutherland, 2004). This collective bargaining is obtained by a group of employees they represent with similar factors that bring them together to form a bargaining unit. The officials could be working within the local, provincial, national or at the international level of a trade union (Gunderson, Ponak & Taras 2001).
Officers at all levels should be part of the same union as their workers
The officers at all levels of the union are not necessarily part of the same union as the workers they represent. An officer can either be elected or appointed from the same union’s signed up membership or in other circumstances they are appointed to paid positions from outside their workers’ union. A newly formed union can basically elect its own officers from its members. In this case, a group of employees can agree to work together, draft a constitution, come up with by laws, sign up union’s membership and elect officers. Elected officers from the same union as workers can also be found at the local levels of trade unions. These officers responsibility is mainly to be local representatives and pass on information to the other levels of the union with a higher bargaining right (Antonellis, 2012).
Officers elected within the union of workers are from the local trade unions and mostly part time officers because they still have to attend to their duties in employment. However they have the legal right to carry out the business of the union during the working hours and at their employer’s business premises. This right only applies when the trade union is recognized by their employer in the work place (Alberta Labour laws, 2014). Officers can also be found to be from outside the workers union in a number of circumstances. In the case of employees applying to join already existing unions, there are officers found at the national or international levels who are appointed. These appointed officials are in paid positions and are mainly hired due to their professional skills and qualifications that may be necessary in conducting the internal affairs of the union and as well as effective representation of the members (Kondra & Gereluk, 2003).
Officers can also become representatives from outside the union of workers in a case where a trade union voluntarily seeks to represent a group of employees by applying for certification or directly asking an employer to recognize the union by way of agreeing to bargain. In this case the officers may be individuals appointed to offer professional services to trade unions. Officers appointed outside the union of workers work on full time basis for the unions at regional and national levels where there are offices established specifically for the business of the union (Alberta Labour laws, 2014).
Officers at all levels should out of scope and part of management with no representation
Trade Union officers can either be skilled within or outside the area of operations of the workers they represent. They are also not of the managers in the workers’ businesses and hence they also have some form of representation in unions. At the local level, officers are mostly from a unit of employees who have an appropriate bargaining right. These officers can also be referred to as lay officials since they generally do not require extra skills besides those of their current employment to become officers. Nevertheless, they can receive training upon their election to enable them perform their duties (Peirce, 2003). They are also not part of the employers’ management and act as stewards for other employees passing on their views to other levels of the union or exercise their bargaining rights at the local levels.
However, trade unions also require officials who are trained in different fields such as law, accountancy, welfare, journalism among others. This necessitates for some of the appointed officials to have different skills from those of the members they represent (Seymour, 1976). For instance, a legal officer and research officer in a trade union needs to have acquired qualifications in the respective field. The officers working at ground or local levels of the unions can also apply and move to higher levels of the union and become full time and paid officials. This will be possible through acquisition of necessary training since additional qualifications and experience in a specialist area may be required (Moeckl, 2004).
Officers at all levels should have their own union and agreement, entirely separate from that of the lower ranks they supervise.
An officer elected from the union membership does not require having a separate union or agreement since all their needs and rights are addressed within the trade unions they belong to which is the same as their workers’ (Buckman, 2006). Their needs are in no way different from the other employees since they have come together as a group with similar factors and concerns that allows them to have collective bargaining. However, in the case of appointed officials who hold their positions due to the specialization in various fields, they may also belong to other specific bodies that provide a collective bargaining for a specific group of people offering different services. These bodies represent their own interests as employees together with other employees with similar interests (Smelby 2006). This implies that appointed officials especially those in higher levels of trade unions have their own unions and agreements that are not similar to the other lower levels they are in charge of supervising.
A guide to Alberta Labour laws (May, 2014)
Antonellis, P. J. Jr. (2012). Labor Relations for the Fire Service. Fire Engineering Books.
Buckman, J. III. (2006). Chief Fire Officer’s Desk Reference. Jones and Bartlett.
Dessler, C., Goodman & Sutherland. (2004). Fundamentals of Human Resource Management. Prentice Hall: Canada.
Gunderson, Ponak & Taras. (2001). Union Management Relations Inc. Canada.
Kondra, A. Dr. & Gereluk, (2003) W. Industrial Relations and Human Resource Program: Athabasca University.
Moeckl, Douglas (2004). Labour Relations. Course Pack. Vermilion: Lakeland College.
Peirce, J. (2003). Canadian Industrial Relations. (2nd Ed.) Prentice Hall.
Seymour, E. (1976). An Illustrated History of Canadian Labour 1800 – 1974. Canadian Labour Congress.
Smelby, L., Jr. (2006). Fire and Emergency Service Administration. Jones and Barlett Publishers.