In one of the many workshops I attended as a resource person, my colleague and friend, who was also there to speak to young trade unionists in Nepal, highlighted that
“Those not a part of trade union movement yet are the future of the trade union movement”
Of course, like expected it did lead to considerable amount of discussion on how the young lot does not feel attracted to trade union movements in the recent times. While many of the participant unionists perceived their older counterparts as paternalistic and not very willing to listen to their views, a few others were not happy with the role being given to them. Interestingly, all the participants, acknowledged the need of a strong trade union movement to protect their rights and interests.
Trade Unions across the world are seeing a constant decline in their membership, because they have not been able to organize young members. Some unions have realized that it has been too long that they have ignored the issues of workers and put strong priority to organizing more and more young workers. For instance, the ITUC highlights
“Young people are critical to the future of trade unionism and to the strength, effectiveness and legitimacy of trade union organization. Youth does not reject trade unionism and often identifies strongly with its principles and values. However, they too frequently face difficulty in finding their place in trade union structures and activities. It is crucial that unions respond better in their policies and activities to the needs and expectations of young workers, make them feel welcome and remove the obstacles that prevent their full participation”.
Merely recognizing the need to organize the young workers might not be enough and Unions will have to take serious constructive steps to ensure young workers participation in Unions. To do that, leaders will have to not only start responding to the needs of the youth and but also ensure that their views are taken seriously. Spaces and opportunities for the youth to assert their views, should be provided for in Unions. Unions should go beyond cosmetic steps or tokenism and create youth structures within the Unions.
Trade unions today need uncompromised, steady and honest fighters and unions can find them in the young.
Views expressed here are personal. Image procured through web search in google. Not copyrighted.