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Transforming the experiences of young people in the workplace

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At the weekend young trade union members from across the country came together for the annual TUC Young Workers Conference. With the challenges young workers are currently facing in the workplace, there will have been a lot to talk about.

Young people are getting a raw deal at work. Job insecurity, low pay, limited opportunities for progression and high levels of harassment dominate their working lives. But this is through no fault of their own. Many of the barriers facing young workers are structural and outside of their control.

Employment rates may have gone up in recent years, but younger workers are still much more likely to be in insecure or low-paid jobs than any other age group. And with insecure work comes a lack of workplace rights and lower job satisfaction.

When we look at pay, young workers have been hit especially hard by the real wage squeeze and are significantly worse off than they were ten years ago. It used to be the case that every generation earned more than the one that came before, but clearly that’s no longer true.

If you work hard and get the right skills, you’re supposed to progress onto better pay. This isn’t the case for today’s young workers. A university degree no longer guarantees better earnings.

These days the best way for young workers to increase their earnings is to move to a big city, with London offering the biggest boost. But in addition to uprooting yourself, moving across the country can be difficult without family support to help with the astronomical rents in the UK’s big cities .

And to top it off, because of the sectors they tend to work in, young workers are more likely to experience third-party harassment while at work.

To make life at work better for young people we urgently need to reach more young workers and get them organising in the workplace. Because while unions can help young workers improve their precarious position in the labour market and their poor experiences at work, we need skilled, active and enthusiastic young people to keep winning for working people in the future.

That’s why the TUC has made 2019 the year of young workers.

This means that throughout the year, the TUC and member unions will be running an intensive national programme of recruitment, organising and campaigning activity specifically targeted at young workers.

And as part of this we’ve got some fantastic projects lined up for the North East. Including an apprenticeship campaign which will see us working with education unions and colleges across the region to ensure apprentices know their rights and are being paid correctly. We’ll also be delivering a young leaders programme to encourage and support young workers to not only fulfil their own potential but help other young people to fulfil theirs.

We want to transform the experiences of young people in the workplace and know that a reinvigorated trade union movement is the best way to achieve this.