Young workers are today’s and tomorrow’s labour movement
Young workers are critical to the present and future labour movement. Currently young workers are under-represented in trade unions across the world for a variety of reasons. Many young people have little knowledge of what trade unions do and the presence of unions is often weak in sectors predominantly occupied by young workers, for example, the hotel, service and “GIG economy” sectors.
Young workers, however, have good reasons to join a union. They frequently experience precarious working conditions, low wages, and insecure employment contracts. They also disproportionately suffer from unemployment with young women impact at an even worse rate. Investing in good quality jobs for young people is an urgent issue that IUF affiliates need to put on the agenda if they want to get the attention of young people.
A need to improve the image of trade unions and make them more inclusive
Young people will join unions and take active roles if they feel that their concerns and needs are recognized. Trade unions should therefore take ownership of young worker issues, display solidarity and fight with them.
Too many young workers see trade unions as old-fashioned institutions, difficult to access, and with patriarchal and pyramidal structures. Young trade union members frequently face difficulties in finding their place in trade union structures and activities. IUF Congress calls on affiliates to implement inclusive strategies, where young members are given greater responsibility and trust to influence union policies and actions through active participation in leadership and decision-making bodies.
IUF and its affiliates need to acknowledge that young trade union members can communicate more effectively with their peers about the nature and mission of unions and can also encourage them to get involved and improve the image of unions in society. Young people are also better able to understand the problems that their peers encounter in the labour market and can suggest solutions.
Without a new generation of members, IUF and its affiliates have no future
The Congress calls on its affiliates to make organizing and recruiting young workers a priority. To make that happen, the Congress calls on affiliates to develop serious and concrete initiatives to align its strategies, structures, communication and internal union democracy to the needs and interests of young workers.
Young workers’ engagement in IUF activities is fundamental to foster cross-border and inter-generational solidarity. The Congress mandates the IUF to encourage and mobilize its affiliates to promote the establishment of forums and organization where young workers and activists within the same company and sector can communicate, exchange best practices and share successful stories about young worker activities.
The Congress further mandates the IUF to provide concrete opportunities for young worker members to work together to develop and propose long-term strategies, activities and opportunities, and support affiliates to ensure young workers take a major place and role in IUF affiliates’ structures, activities and leaderships. This must include engaging young workers in all aspects of union work and decision-making by giving them channels through which to address and voice their issues and interests.
Mônica Bufon Augusto
Chair, Young Workers' Committee