This week, over 600 young trade union activists from all over the world united to build strong unions at the UNI Youth World Forum.
After over a year of the global pandemic, which has had a debilitating impact on many young workers, the energetic meeting saw activists from 161 unions in 70 countries discuss the challenges and develop solutions to overcome the current crisis.
The forum adopted a pioneering plan to fight precarious work, strengthen youth representation and build stronger unions now, and sustainable ones for the future. Participants emphasized the need for representation and training for young workers so that they can play prominent parts in their unions.
“Young people identify with trade union values, but it is difficult sometimes to find our place in union structures,” said Jyoti Shrestha from UNI NLC Nepal. “The needs and expectations of young workers must be reflected in union policy and action. Our involvement should not be an empty gesture, but an investment in the future of the movement, as well as an opportunity to bring fresh ideas to the table.”
“Covid-19 has had a severe impact on young people,” said UNI Deputy General Secretary Alke Boessiger. “But we have clearly seen that unionized young workers who were by collective agreements were better protected from loss of employment or a reduction of their working hours.”
“Strong unions and collective bargaining are the key to a world with social, economic and environmental justice and we can’t push for that world without young people. Our message is that a young worker’s place is in the union”
Director of UNI Youth Marta Ochoa urged young activists to raise their voices in their workplaces and unions to help build a stronger labour movement. “At UNI Youth, we know young people are the lifeblood of the trade union movement. Youth are not just the future, but also the present,” said Ochoa. “We need your passion, your energy and activism to ensure that we have a seat at the table.”
The conference also featured Associate Human Rights Officer at United Nations Human Rights George-Konstantinos Charonis who hosted an engrossing session called: “Everything you wanted to know about youth and human rights but were afraid to ask!” Charonis fielded questions on everything from unpaid internships to the various international conventions in place to protect youth, to how young trade unionists could use UN mechanisms to improve working standards around the world.
Take a look back at the discussion on Twitter following the hashtag #YouthRiseUp.