Dissertation: It's all about attitude – is the shop steward an asset or a necessary evil in the private healthcare industry?

Posted on 25/05/18.

Päivi Kukkola

In the private healthcare industry, employees are challenged to find a shop steward from their work community. Employees do not always have enough interest in issues surrounding terms of employment or do not possess the courage. Even the employer may have a negative view on the shop steward election. One reason is that the meaning of the shop steward role in the workplace is unclear.

Päivi Kukkola researched in her doctoral dissertation in social and health management how the shop steward system works in the private healthcare industry in Finland.

The main research result was that a functioning shop steward system benefits both the employee and the employer. In these workplaces, the shop steward is an essential part of the functioning of the organisation. The common goal was that both the company and the personnel are doing well. The goal is impossible to reach if the parties feel that they are each other's enemies.

“Good cooperation, working together, appreciation, trust, and adequate preconditions for the shop steward to perform the job were emphasised in workplaces that had a well-functioning shop steward system,” explains Päivi Kukkola, who will defend her dissertation at the University of Vaasa.

In the interviews that Kukkola conducted for her dissertation, it turned out that the shop steward is not seen as a cooperation partner in all workplaces and that the shop steward may feel like being the necessary evil. This is how a person interviewed for the research describes the situation:

“In several places the shop steward is still seen as a threat, as if being a threat to the company's success in some way... people see it as an individual waving a red flag on barricades whose job is to just make things difficult when actually the job is the complete opposite”.

Once Finland's social and healthcare reform and the accompanying clients' freedom of choice are actualised, companies will gain an even more important role as healthcare providers. One of the hot topics in the general dialogue on labour markets is increasing and reinforcing local agreement. That requires trust and good cooperation.

“What will happen in those workplaces where the shop steward system cannot be made functional?” Kukkola asks.
The theoretical framework of the research is system theory, which was used to help to perceive the phenomenon and to understand it as a whole. Because this is a qualitative research, the results cannot be generalised. The results are the views and perceptions of 25 interviewees. The focus groups were shop stewards, employee representatives and representatives of employer and employee unions in the private healthcare industry. The research can be utilised in developing a shop steward system and in the dialogue surrounding it.

Public defence

The public examination of M.Sc. Päivi Kukkola ´s dissertation in the field of Social and Health Management “Luottamusjärjestelmä systeemisenä ilmiönä – Tarkastelussa yksityisen terveyspalvelualan luottamusmiesjärjestelmä will be held on Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 12 o’clock in Auditorium Kurten (Tervahovi), University of Vaasa, Finland.

Docent, Dr. Harri Jalonen (Turku University of Applied Sciences) will act as opponent and professor Pirkko Vartiainen (University of Vaasa) as a custos.

Further information

Päivi Kukkola, tel. +358 40 3540783, paivi.kukkola(ät)student.uwasa.fi

Kukkola, Päivi (2018): Luottamusmiesjärjestelmä systeemisenä ilmiönä – tarkastelussa yksityisen terveyspalvelualan luottamusmiesjärjestelmä. Acta Wasaensia 399. Väitöskirja. Vaasan yliopisto.

Publication pdf: http://osuva.uwasa.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/7195/978-952-476-807-8.pdf

Publication orders: https://verkkokauppa.juvenes.fi/tuote/24679/

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