Young workers are already making a huge difference – let's get more of them into unions

Published date
01 Nov 2017
As we roll into November, we can pretty conclusively say that 2017 has been another bad year for working people.

Inflation is outstripping wages, living standards are declining and household debt is rising.

But while everyone is hurting, young workers are disproportionately hit by low pay, insecurity and a lack of voice at work. So throughout November – our Young Workers Month – we’ll be shining a spotlight on the particular challenges they face.

Our research shows that young workers are particularly struggling with rude customers, unfair managers and unpredictable shifts. At the same time, too many feel like they have no opportunity to develop new skills or get on at work.

And worryingly, they’re less likely to be union members than any other group of workers. Most don’t have a rep in their workplace and have never even had a conversation about joining a union.

Just 6.3 per cent of under-30s on low and medium incomes are in unions, even though they need representation more than anyone.  

Of course, we in the trade union movement need to take some responsibility for that. The world of work is changing, and we need to create a modern trade unionism that meets the needs of today’s young workers.

Right now, we have an image problem – young workers don’t think unions are for other people, not for them. And even if we know differently, we have to get out there and prove it. That’s why the TUC is working with member unions to develop a tailored offer for today’s young workers.

This really matters. Getting today’s young workers into unions will transform the future of work, and of our movement. Already, young members and reps are making a huge difference in their workplaces.

Brave young workers are taking on corporate giants like McDonald’s, going out on strike for fair pay, guaranteed hours and union recognition. Others are fighting for a living wage – at the Picturehouse cinemas, for example – or for fair tipping in big restaurant chains like Pizza Express.

In campaigns like these up and down the UK, young workers are lending a fresh perspective and fighting hard for a better deal at work.

So this month we’ll be showcasing their stories – from big wins to ongoing battles.

As trade unionists, we have a proud history. But that doesn’t count for much if we don’t keep our eyes fixed on the future, growing into the digital age and becoming – once again – a movement for young workers.

November is the TUC's Young Workers Month. Learn more here and join the discussion on #YWM17