A LOT of young workers don’t know what trade unions are, don’t feel they are relevant and have been massively let down by trade unions.
I’m not disregarding the long-fought battles faced by the giants whose shoulders we’re standing on. Bank holidays, paid sick leave, maternity/paternity leave, minimum wage and so much more but the world changes while trade unions have not.
Technology today gives us the ability to order whatever we want from a tap and a swipe of a mobile phone screen but workers have to call three different numbers and send five emails to find out who their rep is or get some advice on an issue.
Trade unions are great at shouting about their wins and achievements, and rightly so. However what are we doing now?
We cannot deny that a part of the reason for where we are now is due to regressive conservative governments, although this never stopped the giants whose shoulders we stand on.
We’re reacting to their narrative and not creating the narrative. The laws that are in place, for example, a different minimum wage from 16 to 25 are only a platform for us to start from. We must build on these and when organising in the workplace, insist employers pay everyone the same without prejudice.
Another example is statutory sick pay. This is the minimum and unionised workplaces should be demanding more. We know unionised workplaces are more effective for business.
The young workers who have been given the opportunity to make the change are doing so and the rest of the trade union movement needs to stop writing reports and completing surveys about young workers and start shifting gears into action.
What attracts young workers is proactive organising and action in the workplace. Look at the McStrikers, Bectu workers and Deliveroo drivers. They’re standing up against their employers and increasing union membership.
CWU young workers in north-west England are out in workplaces holding stalls telling colleagues where they are, how they can be contacted and what they’re doing.
They’re going out into communities and supporting vulnerable members of society through foodbank collections, homeless supply appeals and solidarity with other unions by joining picket lines and demonstrations or rallies.
The young workers are actively engaging with the members they represent and taking issues on that their older colleagues won’t go near.
Most of all young workers were at the front of the Four Pillars campaign in Royal Mail and that campaign increased membership numbers and engagement.
If you’re not ready to use new technology and campaign harder on what union members deserve, then move aside because there is a generation of workers that are ready to fight for a new deal, a better deal and deal that works for the many. Times are changing and we need to be making the change.
In this day and age where young people are paying over a third of their wages on rent, can’t dream of owning their own homes, are struggling to pay their bills without going into overdrafts or using credit, while the cost of living is outpacing wages by a long way, unions need to stop living on past accomplishments and start to create the achievements of the now because there’s still so much to fight for.
Dan Lewis is CWU BFS Rep and North West chair and Elli Long is CWU North West young workers secretary.
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