The answer to the question: 'Can you discipline shop stewards when they break workplace rules?' is 'yes'.
But, there's a catch…
The Labour Relations Act (LRA) requires you to do the following when disciplining shop stewards
The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service explains that there's no specific legislation that provides special protection for shop stewards.
That said; the LRA protects all employees against victimisation by employers. This includes shop stewards.
This means, you CANNOT victimise or dismiss your employee if he exercises his rights in terms of legislation or collective agreements.
If your shop steward breaks a workplace rule and you decide to take action; make sure you clarify why you want to discipline him. You must also investigate the matter thoroughly.
To ensure you aren't guilty of disciplining him for performing his duties as a shop steward, of course.
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Consider these two factors when you discipline shop stewards
#1: Was the person acting as an employee or in his role as a shop steward when he broke the workplace rule?
#2: In exercising his role as a shop steward, did the employee commit an act you'd normally categorise as misconduct in the workplace?
An example where an employee commits an offence in exercising his duties as shop steward is as follows:
In a collective bargaining process, a shop steward threatens potential violence if you don't meet employees' demands.
The bottom line: Shop stewards are subject to the same rules and standards as any other employee when it comes to taking disciplinary action against them. Just make sure you play by the rules: Don't discipline them for doing their duties as shop stewards.