You have rights as a delegate some of which are legal, some that have been custom and practice for many years, and some that are negotiated into your collective agreement. You could call them a Bill of Rights. Your agreement will state that you have the right to be recognised by your employer as the official union representative on your job.
If your employer refuses to allow you to carry out your duties as a delegate this is a serious issue.
You have the right to represent our union. You are in office to protect the rights of all members and defend the agreement. Your employer cannot choose some delegates to work with and ignore others. The union designates its delegates, not the employer.
You are there for your co-workers. You are in office to protect the rights of all members and defend the agreement. Your employer cannot choose some delegates to work with and ignore others. The union designates its delegates, not the employer.
They must be able to find you and speak with you about work related issues. This does not mean that work has to stop when issues are discussed. But it does mean that the employer cannot prevent the union representative from speaking with their member so long as work and production is not interfered with (except health and safety).
You have the right to recruit new members. You can talk to and encourage workers to join the union. Where possible this should include being part of the new workers' induction process.
You have the right to be consulted if the employer is looking to make changes in the work place that affect worker's jobs and income. You should be consulted first to enable you time to come to a position on the changes and how it will affect members. You should be able to discuss change with your employer and members as you may come up with better ideas than the employer. After all it's the members who do the jobs.
You have the right to organise your co-workers and they have the right to show their support for the union. Unless there is a specific dress code clause in your agreement, that support can include wearing union badges or stickers. You can have meetings at lunch or before and after work.
You have the right to consult with your members. When you arrive at a meeting with the member present you have the right to stop the meeting and speak privately with the worker. This is particularly important when the member believes the meeting will result in some form of disciplinary action.
You have the right to defend members. The method of defence is up to you. You can be quiet, business like and/or you can increase the volume at a grievance meeting. It's not wise to lose your cool but you certainly have the right not to be intimidated by loud words or threats.
You have the right to investigate. If you are going to defend a member you must be able to talk with witnesses, supervisors and other members. If required, you should be able to look at the member's personnel records if the member agrees.
You have the right to be at all disciplinary meetings with members and members have the right to be represented by you. In your role as union delegate you are equal with management. Employers, particularly supervisors have a difficult time with this. Your role is not a passive one.
You have the right to question anyone, even members of management, who may have information relevant to a disciplinary investigation. If you are to conduct a proper investigation, you need to find out precisely what happened. That means talking to everyone involved prior to any meeting. If you are denied access to anyone, document it in writing so it can be added to the record.
You have the right to question disciplinary action. Disciplinary action can be questioned on a number of fronts; the rules itself, how it is communicated to members and how it is administered by the employer.
You have the right to use the company phone for union business.
You have the right to invite outside speakers to union meetings on site.
You have the right to use a union notice board without interference from your employer.
You have the right to carry out all your delegate's duties without victimisation by your employer.
It's important you negotiate a Delegate Rights clause in your agreement. See standard claim.
You cannot be disciplined for exercising these rights. Just remember you cannot be disciplined for doing your job as a delegate. That kind of action is one which will bring the full force of our union to bear on the boss. An attack on one is an attack on all of us. At the same time, remember that as a delegate, you cannot neglect your paid job. Most bosses will not go after the delegate as a delegate, they will go after the delegate as a worker.