From the 8th to 14th of February, the TUC are running a special week of action throughout England and Wales. It will showcase the amazing work unions do, and tell the stories of ordinary members and reps. It’s all about getting members involved, telling positive union stories to the wider public, and recruiting new members to the union movement.
Now, more than ever, we must come together to protect our rights and promote equality in the workplace. Trade union membership currently makes up about 25% of the working population in the UK. However, barely 5% of trade union members in the UK are aged 16-24, but more than one third (39%) are aged over 50. Yet young workers are some of the most vulnerable, who are particularly affected by low pay, precarious contracts, over-qualification, without opportunities for training and progression.
They are often working in sectors with low or no union presence and without collective agreements, such as in retail, hospitality and outsourced social care. They are the workers who could benefit the most from union membership, yet their voice is currently missing from the movement. It is essential these young workers have a better understanding of, and are able to participate in, trade unions.
This means that we need to get better at responding to their needs and organising in ways that benefit them. This will mean organising in different ways, using digital tools and listening to young workers values and aspirations. If we are unable to involve young workers, we won’t have a trade union movement in the future.
The challenge is significant, but I hope that heart unions week gives members and activists the opportunity, ideas and confidence to rise to it.