(10 January 2022) Today, the EPSU Youth Network published an action plan to improve the active involvement of the youth network in the overall work of EPSU. The action plan recognises that youth are disproportionately impacted by growing precarity in the world of work, and that it is therefore vital for unions to have young workers at the heart of their solutions. It also recognises however, that union membership amongst young people is rapidly declining, and that if this trend is not reversed, the union movement itself will cease to exist. The proposals in the action plan will ensure that young public service workers have a say on labour market issues which will ultimately impact them the most, and that unions can continue to position themselves as a solution to these issues.
The action plan follows on from the 2021 EPSU Youth Network report on Organising Young Workers. The 2021 report demonstrates that there is no right or wrong way to attract young workers, but unions must continue to be creative and take initiative. The six case studies in the report serve as inspiration for unions looking for new ways to organise young workers. However, another key takeaway from the report was that even successful campaigns to organise young workers don’t necessarily result in more active young members. In fact, the initial success from organising campaigns is often short-lived as new and potential members stop engaging in union activities. Ensuring the future of the labour movement and empowering a new generation of union leaders requires strategies to improve the inclusion and active involvement of young workers.
The EPSU Youth Network Steering Group identified three priority areas where the input of young workers will be fundamental in the next EPSU congress period: demographic change, climate change and digitalisation. These phenomena will impact younger generations the most and will shape their entire working lives. Rather than simply being left to face the consequences, young workers must be actively involved in shaping structural change in a way that addresses the concerns and priorities of their generation. The report has been done with the kind support of the Friederich Ebert Stiftung (FES) future of labour programme that supported the practical side of the report.
The readiness and ability of young people to tackle these issues is exemplified in youth-led movements such as Fridays for Future, which has become a leader in the global fight against climate change. Making space for young workers in union structures will help to drive the fight from inside and bring fresh and innovative ideas and approaches. The energy and activism of youth, combined with the expertise of experienced union members, will create a more dynamic labour movement. More representative unions will also have greater leverage in collective bargaining with employers and can result in better agreements. In this way, youth involvement in union structures can have a positive impact on industrial relations and society as a whole.
The proposals will provide the basis of the EPSU Youth Networks preparation for the 2024 EPSU Congress.