Young workers are the future of trade unionism
BWI held its first ever youth-led webinar to mark World Day for Decent Work last 7 October. The webinar, which was hosted by young trade unionists from around the world and divided into two sessions, shared experiences and perspectives on how to fight workers’ rights violations and threats against democracy, and identified key demands for collective actions for a fair and equal future for all.
BWI International Youth Committee Chair Lebohang Vincent Ramabolu opened the online discussion by remarking that young workers now have the chance to lead the process of change to build a new and better future based on equality and justice for everyone. He said that young workers are not afraid of demanding a better world.
Jeza Rodriguez, Executive Director of Centre for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN) based in the Philippines, joined the webinar as keynote speaker. She emphasised that young people are the backbone of many societies. She reminded the youth participants that they cannot afford to stay silent on the social, political, and economic issues of their respective countries. She said young people have a responsibility to respond to today’s pressing problems, particularly those that undermine the rights of young workers in the middle of a pandemic.
The webinar’s first session, which was moderated by Nahuel Placanica of UOCRA Youth-Argentina, presented the BWI youth affiliates’ various struggles for labour rights amidst the pandemic. Nahuel underscored the significance of holding the webinar at the same day as World Day for Decent Work. He said this gives young trade unionists an added opportunity to present their framework of linking the global health crisis to burning issues faced by young people, such as rising unemployment and precarious working conditions.
The session also shared young workers’ struggles in different countries such as the youth uprisings in Colombia, which was narrated by Luis Fernando Lopez from INTERGREMIAL, NUM-Africa’s campaign against unemployment and rising inequalities as shared by Mamokete Motsamai, and the Australian trade movement’s intensified efforts to organise young people to trade unions as presented by Joe Myles of CFMEU.
The second session, which was composed of a panel of 5 young trade unionists, reflected on the recent attacks on workers’ rights in their respective countries.
Jucelino Souza de Novais Junior, Field OHS Coordinator and Executive Board Member of SINTICOM Campinas-Brazil reported on Brazil’s far-right policies and how young workers are pushing back. Marwa Hammami of Tunisia added by sharing the difficulties they face in protecting workers’ rights in their country.
Husain Maulana of SERBUK-Indonesia, meanwhile, reported on their youth-led campaign against their country’s Omnibus Law. He also presented SERBUK’s youth organising efforts, such as inviting young students for internship and to volunteer to their different social media campaigns.
For his part, Ryan Kekeris of IUPAT-USA gave a background on how the US health care system works and how it is tied to employment status. He shared insights on their campaign calling for the passage of the PRO ACT law, which he said will make organising easier for unions. He emphasised that as individuals, it is difficult to enforce progressive change. It is only by working together, as expressed through trade unions, can people change the world.
Likewise, Eldiiar Karachalov, President of The Construction and Building Materials Industry Workers Union of Kyrgyzstan, stressed the crucial role the youth must play to make trade unions more relevant, vibrant and resilient going to the future.
The major findings of BWI’s Youth Research was also presented in the said webinar. BWI Global Youth Coordinator Gulsah Doruk said that BWI continues to build platforms for youth discussions and conduct capacity-building activities and trainings to support the young workers’ respective agenda.
BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson closed the webinar by acknowledging the vital role young trade unionists and workers are playing in the struggle for a new and better future.
“Young trade unionists are among the most active youth activists around the globe. They challenge corporations and even their own governments. Young activists, such as all of you here today, are our hope of union power for the future. And from what I have seen today, I can confidently say that the future of the trade union movement is bright and secured,” Yuson said.