Young unionists: Build “shields” vs. anti-labour policies

BWI’s young trade union leaders in Europe called for the building of more political and economic “shields” to protect workers from a new wave of anti-labour policies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a BWI European Youth Committee meeting held on 16 November, young trade unionists in the region expressed their deep concerns regarding the dangerous trend by governments to “reform, restructure and amend” their labour laws allegedly to better respond to the pandemic, but at the expense of workers’ rights and welfare.


“There is a real need to turn this situation into an opportunity to change the system. Young people have to take on the role as catalysts of change and help make the necessary shift to a future guided by strong public policies that shield workers’ rights from abuse,” BWI European Youth Committee Jakob Wagner said. 

Wagner said that the global health crisis hit many European economies and destroyed millions of jobs. He said that the many companies are taking advantage of the pandemic to push for polices that promote flexible working arrangements and erode job security. The young trade union leader said that the situation is seriously affecting the mental well-being of many workers, particularly the youth. 

Kyrgyzstan Construction and Building Workers Union President Eldiiar Karachalov painted a similar picture. He narrated how his government is using COVID-19 to restrict trade union activities and meddle with the unions’ internal affairs. He said that massive workers’ protests were launched last month after the Kyrgyzstan parliament introduced a measure seeking to amend the country’s trade union law. He said that trade unions are demanding the measure’s immediate withdrawal saying that it would cripple trade union organising and is in violation of international labour treaties and treaties. 

The committee said that it will maximise online platforms to reach out to more young workers and create more spaces to educate and share information and strategies. As a start, it devoted a substantial part of its meeting to a session discussing the history, principles and stages of capitalism. The session was guided by a module prepared and implemented by young delegates from the Swedish Building Workers’ Union (BYGGNADS) and the Swedish Painters’ Union (MALARNA).