Young Members' Forum and Conference

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What is the Young Workers Forum?

The Young Workers Forum is an advisory committee to the TUC General Council, which meets approximately five time a year. It consists of a number of General Council members and representatives from affiliated trade unions. Each union that is affiliated to the TUC can appoint up to two delegates to the Forum, at least on of who must be a woman. Those representatives must be under the age limit criteria set by their individual union. The Forum is chaired by a member of the General Council who is elected at Congress. The Forum elects a Vice-Chair from among the union representatives. Out of the Chair and Vice-Chair, at least one of the office-holders must be a woman.

What is the Young Workers Conference?

The Young Workers Conference is a meeting of young trade unionists which advises the TUC General Council on issues which affect young people at work. The conference also allows delegates to review the work of the Young Workers Forum over the past year and shape its programme of work for the year ahead.

Who attends the Conference?

Unions affiliated to the TUC send delegates to represent them. Those delegates are usually under the age of 27. Different unions are able to send different sized delegations depending on how many members they have. Where possible, unions are encouraged to send delegations which contain a gender balance. Unions are able to appoint delegates on the following basis:

  • Unions with up to 300,000 members, a maximum of four delegates;
  • Unions with up to 500,000 members, a maximum of six delegates;
  • Unions with up to 800,000 members, a maximum of eight delegates;
  • Unions with up to 1,200,000 members, a maximum of 10 delegates;
  • Unions with up to 1,200,000 members, a maximum of 12 delegates;
  • Unions with up to 1,500,000 members, a maximum of 14 delegates;
  • Unions with up to 1,800,000 members, a maximum of 16 delegates;
  • Unions with over 1,800,000 members, a maximum of 18 delegates.

Fern McCaffrey

Fern McCaffrey
Chair TUC Young Workers Forum

Role: GMB activist in Private Sector

Fern is the Chair of the TUC Young Workers Forum and works to facilitate the relationship between the forum and the General Council.  Fern represents TUC Young Workers on the General Council submitting quarterly reports to the trade union leaders on the work of the forum and its delegates.

Fern has been a trade union member since she was 16 years old. She is passionate about campaigning on issues that affect young workers such as: access to work, training, unpaid internships and housing, and is driving forward the current priority campaigns on Pay and Political Education.

What happens at Conference?

In the months leading up the Conference, unions are invited to suggest a key topic or issue for discussion at the Young Workers Conference. Unions have to submit these topics by specified deadline which is determined by the Forum. From the suggestions received, the Young Workers Forum chooses two or three topics for discussion at the Conference. The criteria used for selecting issues by the Forum includes contemporary relevance and accordance with TUC priority campaigns. The Young Workers Forum will draft statements in relation to those key issues which set out the views of the Forum and on the action it will take over the next 12 months.


At the Conference, delegates will have the opportunity to hear from guest speakers who can inform them about the issues being discussed. Delegates also break up into discussion groups where they talk about the statements drafted by the Forum and exchange ideas for action that the Young Workers Forum could take on those issues. At this stage delegates can talk about possible amendments to those statements, based on their discussions.

Following the discussion groups, there is an opportunity for delegates to submit amendments to the statements. These must be submitted by a deadline set by the Young Workers Forum.

All suggested amendments are typed up and new copies of the draft statements are circulated to delegates so that they can consider them.

Agreeing statements

Following their discussion groups, delegates meet up again for a final plenary session. Here delegates can explain whether or not they support the statement and the amendments that have been submitted. Once all delegates have had an opportunity to comment on the statements, the statements are out the vote.

What if issues arise after the deadline for key issues?

The Young Workers Conference is not a motions-based conference in the way that other TUC or union conferences operate. Unions submit key issues for discussion, rather that motions, so there is no provision for emergency motions. However, that does not mean that unions cannot raise key issues for discussion which come up nearer the time of the Conference. Unions have until five days before the Conference to submit ‘emergency’ issues to the TUC. These issues must have genuinely arisen since the deadline for key issues. As with other key issues, the issue must be in line with existing TUC priorities. The final decision on whether an ‘emergency’ issue will be discussed at the Conference lies with the Young Workers Forum, which meets on the afternoon before the Conference opens.

If the Forum agrees to discuss the issue at the Conference, then it will present a draft statement on the issue to the Conference. The Forum will then try to discuss the statement during one of the existing sessions, or rearrange the agenda to allow for a separate session to deal with the topic. Existing agenda items, however, cannot be removed from the agenda to accommodate “emergency” issues.

When the Young Workers Forum is considering the key issues submitted by unions, it only prioritises two or three topics for discussion at the Conference. Similarly, if more than one emergency issues is submitted by unions, the Forum will only agree to discuss those issues which it feels have most relevance to the Conference.

What happens after the Conference?

After the Conference, the statements which have been ratified by the delegates are considered by the TUC General Council. Once the General Council has commented on the statements, the Young Workers Forum acts on the action points in those statements as part of its programme of work for the year ahead.

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