I'm looking for an English word or short phrase to convey a meaning which is similar to “union representative” or “shop steward”, except that the person in question is not (necessarily) associated with a union. That person is an employee of a company who is elected by his fellow employee to represent him in various relations with the employer.

The point is to distinguish between two concepts in French labor relations: a “délégué syndical” (lit. “union representative”), and a “délégué du personnel” (lit. “representative of the workforce”). While it is possible for a délégué du personnel to also be a délégué syndical, they are separate roles, and the délégué du personnel does not have to be a union member, and even if he is he does not speak for the union in his role as a délégué du personnel.

IATE is decidedly unhelpful here, suggesting only “shop steward” and “trade union representative” for délégué du personnel, both of which are wrong. Linguee offers suggestions, but none that strike me as clearly making the difference between union and union-agnostic representatives. There evidently is no similar concept in labor relations in English-speaking countries, so I'm looking for a good enough approximation.

What would be a good way to translate délégué du personnel into English (taking care not to imply a union representative)? A way to describe this role in a sentence or two that makes sense to UK and US audiences would be appreciated too.

  • I think the world has moved on a bit since those two French terms were introduced. All forms of closed shops in the UK are strictly illegal under section 137(1)(a) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, for example. Ordinarily the workers choose their own representatives, and there are often several different unions relevant to a workforce. It wouldn't be impossible for a dozen workers at one site to all belong to different unions, yet have a representative who wasn't a member of any union. – FumbleFingers Dec 12 '12 at 22:35
  • Translation is listed as off topic in the FAQ. – MetaEd Dec 12 '12 at 22:54
  • 5
    @MετάEd Um, what? This is a phrase request, not a translation question. It so happens that my goal is to translate a French phrase, but I explained the meaning of that phrase in English, you don't need to know any French to understand the question. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Dec 12 '12 at 22:57
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers Perhaps in the UK, but in the US a shop steward is still (by law) an elected worker representative who is also a member of a union. – Mark Beadles Dec 12 '12 at 22:59
  • 2
    @Mark: I don't seriously expect to understand the American perspective on such matters. When checking Wikipedia to find out when we banned the closed shop in the UK, I noticed The Taft-Hartley Act outlawed the closed shop in the United States in 1947, but I very much doubt we're talking about the same kind of legislation in the same social/labour relations context (we might be a bit behind the US in some respects, but surely not 45 years! :) – FumbleFingers Dec 12 '12 at 23:12

A general term for this is staff representative or staff rep for short. This can be used for any person who represents staff and need not be a member of any union (although they may).

If it really must be stressed the person is not a union member, I'd got for non-union [staff] rep.

| improve this answer | |

As you say, I don't think there is a well-established word for it. I would go for workers' representative, but it will need a bit of explanation exactly what is meant.

| improve this answer | |
  • I don't really see that workers' (or staff) representative needs any further explanation along the lines of "(who isn't a union member)". If most of the workforce happened to be female/coloured/young/whatever, that wouldn't imply we needed separate words for representatives who did (or didn't) fall into that category themselves, or that you would for some other reason be likely to need to convey that information. – FumbleFingers Dec 12 '12 at 22:42
  • @FumbleFingers I think it does need clarification in my context, because the context involves both union representatives and workers' representatives. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Dec 12 '12 at 22:59
  • I have also seen "workforce representative". @FumbleFingers, the distinction does make a difference in the US – Mark Beadles Dec 12 '12 at 22:59
  • @Gilles,Mark: I think maybe this is a "social" US/UK difference. But where it's necessary to distinguish the two people in Britain, I think you'd just call one the workers' representative, and the other a union representative (where the latter might or might not be significantly endorsed by the majority of the workforce). – FumbleFingers Dec 12 '12 at 23:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.