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What is the Role of Union Delegates?

The Role of CFMEU FFPD Workplace Delegates

The CFMEU FFPD Union Delegate (Delegate) is the person other union members come to when they believe they have a problem or difficulty at work. The Delegate then works with the member to either fix the problem or help the member understand their rights and obligations within the workplace.

The Delegate is a very important part of the Union as they are the first point of contact for members who have problems or need advice.

If the problem is big or serious, or if the advice is too complex, the Delegate then puts members in touch with the Union’s officials, usually the Organiser.

Delegates receive no payment from the Union for the role they play. In some workplaces Delegates may be entitled to additional privileges or benefits – things like use of the phone, time “off the job” to conduct interviews and meetings etc.

For the new Delegate, some key tasks would include:

•    Being identifiable to members and acting as a first point of contact in the event of their questions or issues involving management or the workplace.
We don’t expect new delegates to “know everything”. But if a member wants you involved in something, and you feel unsure about getting involved or you don’t know the answer, it’s okay to say that you don’t know. You can simply let the member know that you will find out the answer or pass the problem onto a more experienced Union official on your site, your Organizer, someone at the National Office. That’s why the contacts page on this website is important.
•    Distributing union material and publications.
The Branch/District and National Office will produce bulletins, publications and press releases. As Delegate in your area, you may be asked to distribute this information to your workmates, and talk about issues that arise.


•    Ensuring union notices are pinned up in the workplace and kept up to date
Many of our workplaces have union notice boards. Your Senior Site Delegate of Organiser may ask you to maintain the information on notice boards, and get rid of any outdated fact sheets/pamphlets.


•    Identifying new people on the shop floor for contact and recruitment
Delegates should identify new workers in their work area and introduce themselves. Have a conversation with new workers, identify if they are union members, and if not, ask them to join. If they refuse, notify a more experienced Delegate or your Organiser so they can follow up.


•    Informing the OH&S and workplace committees about issues that may arise in your work area
Your workplace may have committees set up to deal with OH&S and production matters. As Delegate for your work area, it is expected that you will either directly participate in these committees, or notify them of issues that come to either your or your members’ attention.  


•    Keeping an eye out for changes to personnel or personnel details
Notify a more experienced Delegate or the Union Organiser about any members in your area who are leaving/have left the workplace, or changed address. Doing this ensures our Union records are as up-to-date as possible, in the event of industrial action or elections.


•    Attending workplace union meetings
Larger worksites may call (either occasionally or regularly) union meetings for delegates. These meetings may be information or campaign updates, or general Union site maintenance meetings.

Delegates can learn each day as they perform their role. Involvement with the Union at a workplace or District level brings them into situations and meetings that expand their knowledge, understanding and confidence to deal with workplace matters.

This means that more experienced Delegates sometimes find themselves  –  

•    Advising members of rights and entitlements
The longer Delegates spend in their role, the more used they get to the ins and outs of the collective agreement and workplace custom and practice. Experience in dealing with matters brings knowledge, and that’s why more experienced delegates can begin to handle a member’s specific site issues.
•    Handling issues on behalf of members by negotiating with supervisors or managers
Experienced Delegates often take disciplinary or other matters up on behalf of members because time in the role allows them to understand what rights and obligations exist in a work situation. This “direct representation” role is the real front line of Unionism, and sends a signal to management that workers “stand together”.  
•    Meeting with members to discuss industrial and workplace issues, or collective agreement campaigns
Experienced Delegates are expected to liaise with and talk to members about the Union’s work on a variety of workplace issues. This includes listening to what members say, correcting any rumor/ wrong information/ misunderstandings, and providing information about offers or concessions.
•    Coordinating work area meetings to get and give feedback on specific issues of interest to the union or its members.
This activity is more a formal report back function responding to particular issues.
•    Updating members about union activities, meetings and issues
Letting members know what the Union is doing is a vital component of the Delegate communication role, and you are in a great position to be across all sorts of news and information to share. This website will be updated regularly so make sure you remind members to visit the site regularly.


•    Monitoring implementations of collective agreement provisions and company policies
The experienced Delegate keeps an eye on workplace decisions and the conditions of workers, particularly after a formally agreed change.  

A number of experienced Delegates also play a part in running our Division because they sit on the various State/District committees that oversee the union’s finances, administration, policy and campaign decisions.

This role is extremely important because it ensures that the Union’s officials are answerable to the people who are directly elected by the Union’s members.

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