In preparing this blog, I looked back at a similar blog I wrote for last year’s Young Workers’ Month. It is startling to see the number of issues raised in that piece that are still relevant as I write this blog.
Low pay, zero-hours contracts and poor treatment at work are still rampant. Even where full time contracts exist, the lack of employment rights from day one of a contract mean that many young workers are exploited and insecure at work. The inequalities highlighted by the pandemic are still evident and sexual, racial and homophobic harassment at work is still as much of a problem as ever.
On top of this, 2021 has seen the end of the furlough scheme that so many young workers relied on for an income when jobs just weren’t available. And we’ve seen the scourge of fire and rehire - where an employer sacks its staff and then re-engages them on much worse terms and conditions - rear its ugly head. That’s not to mention the national insurance tax hikes that will leave many on low incomes worse off. It’s not difficult to see why so many young workers suffer with their mental health as a result.
Life for your average young worker in 2021 is a challenge. But while it would be easy to feel overwhelmed by all of this, we’ve seen in the past how we can get real change by coming together and fighting for it through our trade unions. It’s the only way that working people have ever achieved positive change.
At every meeting of the Young Workers Forum, I’ve seen the enthusiasm and ideas that our members have to make positive change in their workplaces. They want to do it because they understand the effect that the balance of power between employers and employees has on their lives.
Organisation is so important in building our movement and that’s why I’m proud that the Young Workers Forum have adopted ‘Organising Young Workers’ as our priority campaign for this year.
I’m proud too that we’ve already put this campaign into action. Members of the Young Workers Forum will be taking part in the pilot of the TUC’s online organising programme.
The first cohort is going through the programme this November and we’re hoping to roll it out more widely in future.
There’s also an event on 30th November called ‘#Organise - getting young workers into unions and active’ that will discuss what actions we can take to organise better.
And we’ve got a jam-packed month of events about the other issues young workers face, including:
On 4th November, there’s ‘Climate Change and a Just Transition- what’s the future for young workers?’. This will cover the climate emergency and the steps unions are taking to do something about it.
17th November is the middle of Living Wage Week, so we have the event ‘Can’t afford it, can’t get on – young people in work need better jobs and pay’.
On 25th November, UN International Day for Ending Violence against Women and Girls, we have the event ‘This ends now - how we stop harassment and violence against women’.
You can find out more information about these events here.
This Young Workers Month, I’d encourage you to come along, find out more and get involved in our events.
And remember, young workers aren’t the future of the Trade Union Movement - we are the Trade Union Movement!
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