I am Ryan Macsween (M/23) and I was elected, uncontested, the Young Members Officer for this branch. The very fact that this position was uncontested highlights the importance of why this role needs to be filled, and it also sheds light on the delicate relationship trade unions have with young people in 2022.
TUC research shows that 16- to 24-year-olds make up 14% of the workforce, but only account for 4.7% of union membership. For UNISON in Inverclyde, membership is just under 30% amongst the 318 young employees (Under 26s). The pitiful state of these statistics has me utterly confused when it is these very people who are on the most precarious contracts, the lowest wages and consistently treated unfairly in comparison to their older colleagues.
However, if I take a step back, I can see perfectly clear why. From conversations I’ve had that end with “they aren’t what they use to be”, to ones that begin with “they are useless” and “what’s the point”. This anti-trade union rhetoric has infested itself in society and has made the very notion of trade unionism seem obsolete. This rhetoric predates myself and other young members existence, yet it is this philosophy that we are, and will be, up against. Fighting these views will not be easy, especially with the laws and media that ingrain and normalise them. However, combating these ideas is what we must do. We need to show that trade unions are not something that were useful 40 years ago, we need to show that they are useful today.
Showing young workers and future members the usefulness of trade unions is why I put myself forward as the young members officer, and this a task I intend to complete. Thankfully I am not alone in this task and both young and old comrades are aiding me. We have started drawing plans together on recruitment events as well as issues in workplaces that we can rally young people around. I plan on keeping members updated with all the news regarding this.
I have no illusions that this task will be easy, but there hasn’t been a time in the last 20 years where we have needed trade unions and solidarity like we do now. And getting this message out there to young workers is what I plan to do.
If you haven’t yet filled in the Young Members survey can you do me a favour and fill in the survey below I’d really appreciate it. You can fill it in whether your a UNISON member or not!