Shop Steward Elections

Do the right thing – elect women shop stewardsMirriam Mochochoko and Jenny Grice

When KZN region did a gender check of its shop stewards elected four years ago, it found that only 3% were women! Not surprising then that at a regional level there are no regional office bearers.

However this time round KZN’s gender structures are campaigning to ensure that women get elected as shop stewards.

Local gender co-ordinators will work hand in hand with local co-ordinators and local office bearers.

Already local gender coordinators have identified companies where women are employed. Now they will attend factory general meetings where women will be encouraged to avail themselves for shop stewards elections.

Those that are currently shop stewards will be encouraged to stand again.Once more women are elected as shop stewards, they can be elected to leadership positions in collective bargaining teams.

And this will ensure that their demands are not compromised. Across the country in Ekurhuleni, gender coordinator Maria Bogatha is also visiting factories with many women members and encouraging them to stand.

At Duraset Bogatha addressed women during their lunch-break. Women workers told her that they weren’t trained as shop stewards, they didn’t have the skills and they couldn’t stand.

Bogatha assured them that if they were elected, Numsa would run shop steward training for them to teach them about the Labour Relations Act and how to defend their fellow workers.

Attending local shop steward councils was also an important part of learning how to do their job. 

A worker at Duraset asks how can she stand as a shop steward when she doesn’t have the skills

Choose wisely when electing your shop stewardXolani Tshayana

We must protect organisational stability. We must avoid a situation where dubious characters during confusion tend to become leaders.

If we elect dubious characters we will consciously be creating organisational problems without calculating the consequences and damage done to the organisation.

We must beware of comrades who want to become shop stewards because they want access to union offices, union vehicles, full-time shop steward offices, or because they want to run away from the lines.

Such people are not filled with love and passion to serve membership. Because of this in Numsa we still have a sizeable number of clock card shop stewards.

We must guard against this temptation from comrades so that they do not become our worst enemy in the organisation and threaten the existence of the union at plant level.

Be careful who you vote for!Let's make an example about a recent incident at VWSA. Two full-time shopstewards resigned as shop stewards before their term of office had expired.

More than five comrades contested the position. The majority were fairly new members of Numsa with less than two or three years experience with VWSA.

They don’t have a history of talking in Numsa departmental /streams and general meetings, they do not have leadership or shop steward experience and they were not active in Cosas, Sasco, ANCYL or any other youth structures.

They are passive in their community structures, they want to be fulltime shopstewards without starting off as part-time shopstewards.

And guess what – membership voted for them even though they do not know the roles and the responsibilities of the full-time shopsteward let alone the role of a part time shopsteward.

But because of workers' democracy, workers are allowed to choose leaders of their own choice.

Obviously this weakens the trade union ability to influence and respond to management which is very sophisticated with its strategies And the very same members will complain and say Numsa is weak, not knowing that it’s themselves who made the wrong choices.

Checklist when electing shop stewards Look at the attendance record of a candidate before you decide. Don’t elect someone who is lazy and doesn’t come to work on a regular basis.

Continuity is the cornerstone of elections. But each constituency must evaluate the performance of the individual before re-electing.

Think twice on those who are campaigning for themselves. Use your democratic right to approach a candidate Not everybody who talks in general meetings can be a good shop steward Don’t elect someone on the basis that he/she is only good at criticizing the current shop steward.

Where it matters most is for the shop steward to be able to engage in meetings with management and provide solutions.

Don’t elect someone on the basis that he/she is available. The test is whether someone is responsible.

You can be available but irresponsible and not hold report back meetings for membership Be colour and gender-blind: elect female members and comrades from other racial groups so that we live up to Numsa's principle of a non racial and non-sexist organisation Consider someone who will respect Cosatu, Numsa and Alliance structures and protocols and attend Numsa and Cosatu Local meetings and give report backs to members Elect someone who will get himself /herself occupied by the needs of the workers and treat his /her needs as secondary.


Numsa News