TUC headquarters, Congress House. Photo: Paul The Archivist/CC
TUC headquarters, Congress House. Photo: Paul The Archivist/CC

Joshua Boyle, GMB member, personal capacity 

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) Young Workers Conference, from 23 to 24 March, was well attended by a number of different unions, with delegates representing a wide range of sectors and regions.

What united everyone were two things: being under the age of 30, and having a desire to see the trade union movement change! It was refreshing to see so many young faces, considering that, by the TUC’s own metrics, only 1 in 20 young workers under 30 is in a trade union.

There were international speakers including from Norway, Palestine, Turkey, Brazil and Colombia. It was great to hear about the struggles extending much further than the UK’s borders.

Motions on various issues such as the future of Artificial Intelligence in the workplace, fighting against the minimum service levels legislation, and Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear campaign were all passed.

A motion around expanding provisions for mental health in the workplace was raised by Unison, with an emotional speech from the speaker.

One delegate came up to speak in support, but urged unions to move past awareness campaigns, and instead campaign to tackle contributors to mental health issues: low pay, poor contracts, poor housing – all the product of the capitalist system that puts profit before people.

The strike wave has already shown that young workers can be attracted to unions if they are seen as giving a fighting lead. In my own region of the GMB, young members have been involved in strike action across ASDA stores. If trade unions are to recruit more young workers, they need to be seen to fight on the issues that matter: for decent pay, secure jobs, and for demands such as housing and full funding of services like the NHS and schools. That means being prepared to build and lead action, and to tackle the crucial question of political representatives that stand in the interests of working-class young people.