Getting involved in the union has provided me with a voice

We hear from one of our Young Member activists on why they felt they had to stand up for young workers

November is #YoungWorkersMonth and today, young members of UNISON are gathering at UNISON Centre for Young Members Network Day, a unique opportunity for young members to gather and exchange stories and share their experiences of the workplace.

One such story is that of Luca, one of our region’s young activists and a member of our Regional Young Members Forum, who had the following to say about their time in UNISON so far:

‘I’m Luca, the Young Members Officer for Surrey County Branch. I have been a member of the union since I got my first job at 18, however the pivotal moment for me which motivated me to get more involved was when I faced issues at a previous workplace. I was the only union member there and was already at a disadvantage on account of my age and was still working my probationary period, which gave me very limited employment protections and even less power to challenge issues in my workplace.

After I found myself a more stable job at the County Council, I was motivated to get more involved with my trade union knowing that I’d left behind colleagues that were in just as a precarious situation as I was, that were being taken advantage of by managers with a cruel indifference, working for long hours for very little pay – and crucially didn’t have the power or voice to change things on their own. I realised that there were young workers in similar situations across the public sector and beyond and I wanted to try and fight for change.

Getting involved in the union has provided me with that voice and has given me the opportunity to listen to the issues facing young workers and then try to fight for the important changes needed. The best way to try and combat these issues is through collectivism, and the South East Young Members’ Forum provides the space to discuss these issues with young workers across the region, and crucially come up with strategies and ideas that we can use in our workplaces. Having the opportunity to collaborate with other young members from a variety of workplaces, to meet people who are in similar situations and ultimately work towards a better environment for young workers, is an empowering experience.

Through the Young Members’ Forum, I have been able to get involved with the Regional Council & Committee as well as the National Young Members’ Forum, where I have been able to advocate on behalf of the young members in the region to ensure that our interests are always being considered in union decision making. The trade union movement historically has been paramount in affecting change in working conditions, and that remains true today. However, more recently young workers haven’t been as keen to get involved in the trade unions as previous generations. This is why it remains important that we have young members to continue to keep the issues we face at the top of the agenda, so that the union as a whole can fight with us. This is also why we need more young people to get involved.

The trade union movement is about more than just the conditions we face at work, but is also about all of the broader political and social issues that we face. From climate change, to harassment, to a rising cost of living – these are all trade union issues. Young people are aware of these issues and are willing to do something about them, and trade unions provide the perfect avenue to gain a democratic voice and to fight for these issues. From becoming a rep and challenging individual issues in your workplace, or whether it’s getting involved with the union nationally to shape its agenda and push for policy changes, there’s a role for every one.’

Luca Di Mambro-Moor, Surrey County Branch Young Members’ Officer and Workplace Rep

If, like Luca, you’re under 27 years old and want to get involved in your union – the Regional Young Members AGM takes place on 27 January 2022. The deadline for registrations and nominations is 6 January 2022.