Shop Steward–Management Relationships: A Predictor of Employee–Organisation Relationships


  • Jennifer Bowler Nelson Mandela University



trade union, shop steward–management, employee–supervisor, employee–organisation, relationships


In this South African study, I aimed to identify the respective influence of human resources practices, procedural fairness, the shop steward–management relationship, and the employee–supervisor relationship on the state of the employee’s relationship with the organisation. The method was quantitative and cross-sectional. A total of 660 production employees from 14 organisations in the value chain of the automotive industry in the Nelson Mandela Bay area of South Africa supplied responses. The relationships between variables were determined through structural equation modelling. Although the study was a cross-sectional study, the use of structural equation modelling points to cause and effect relationships. The best-fit model revealed that the dominant predictor of the employees’ perception of their relationship with the organisation was their perception of the quality of the relationship between shop stewards and management. Trade unions as trusted leaders may fulfil a very important role in mediating workplace relationships, especially in highly unequal societies with deep social divisions. The pivotal importance of the employees’ perception of the shop steward–management relationship creates an onus on both management and trade unions to work to move this relationship from adversarial to constructive and effective. The results may be generalised to highlight the importance of employee representation, whether unionised or non-unionised, at the workplace level. As leaders in the workplace, employee representatives provide the mechanism to mediate relationships, build trust and create strong employee–supervisor and employee–organisation bonds which may have a positive impact on individual and organisational performance.


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How to Cite

Bowler, J. (2023). Shop Steward–Management Relationships: A Predictor of Employee–Organisation Relationships. African Journal of Employee Relations, 47, 23 pages .



Received 2021-07-21
Accepted 2023-05-11
Published 2023-12-13