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Why are the younger generation not joining trade unions?

by Erin Garnham, Equality for Workers Union (EFWU)

Why are young people today not joining a union? Are young people today properly informed about what a trade union is and what it can do for them?

In 2016 less than 5% of 16 to 24 year olds were members of trade unions, in comparison almost 40% of trade union members are aged 50 plus. Compared to 1995 the proportion of members under the age of 50 has significantly dropped, whereas the proportion above the age of 50 has increased.

Many 16-24 year olds are either students, part time workers or full time workers, I believe they are not being informed properly by their employers or by anyone about the importance of being a member of a trade union. Young people do not know who to go to when they have issues at work, the majority simply accept the way they are treated at work and believe the employers say is final and do not challenge their treatment. Our generation has not been brought up to know how valuable trade unions can be to their employment, it can mean the difference between keeping your job and losing it! With the rise of zero hour contracts, in recent years it’s more important than ever for the younger generation to be informed about their rights at work. The younger generation are less likely to be in the same career throughout their whole working lives, it is more likely that they change employment, so many think that being a member of a trade union is pointless, however union membership can protect you throughout career changes, there are also specialist unions for specific trades.

A trade union isn’t just for when you have issues at work, they can also advise you on work related matters, for example if there is a change in your contract or if you need help to apply for flexible working hours. The younger generation is not aware that it is the right of every worker to be a member of whichever union they choose, it is also the right of every worker to have their chosen union representative with them in any appeal meeting should they need one. Young people need to be encouraged to join unions, the only way forward to actively change issues in the work place is through collectivism that trade union membership brings.

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