Hundreds march with Youth Fight for Jobs
Youth Fight for Jobs organised protests in 15 towns and cities on 9 October. They were joined by trade unionists, including Socialist Party members, and other activists, demanding decent jobs for young people – a £15-an-hour minimum wage and an end to zero-hour contracts. Below are reports of some of those protests.
The protest started outside the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (Beis), before marching to Downing Street. It was youthful, energetic, and hopeful.
Our protest covered a wide range of issues that are facing young people, but it also showed how young workers and students are not standing alone. We had a speaker from the Communication Workers Union (CWU) postal executive, plus a Unison member, speaking in a personal capacity.
London Socialist Party and Youth Fight for Jobs organiser, Berkay Kartav, said: “This campaign was initially launched about ten years ago, in response to rising youth unemployment caused by the 2008-09 financial crisis. We made it clear then, and we make it clear today, young people won’t mortgage our future for the capitalist crisis.
“Two thirds of all job losses during the pandemic were accounted for by young people. And there is a multitude of other problems facing us.
“But the truth is we are optimistic, because we have confidence in the new generation of working-class fighters to improve their living conditions through struggle. We also put pressure on the leaders of the trade union movement – they represent potentially the most powerful force in the society, the organised working class.
“There have been important victories. Rent strikes, organised by university students, won concessions from both the Tory government and Welsh Labour government. Bexley and Thurrock bin workers show that if you fight, you can bring the bosses and their political representatives to their knees.”
Cardiff University Socialist Students organised a feeder march, joining up with the main protest in the city centre. Socialist Students demanded a refund of tuition fees for online learning, and a cancellation of tuition fees entirely. Some young people have tragically taken their own lives, but mental health support at universities is non-existent.
At the Youth Fight for Jobs protest, Eugene Caparros, South Wales CWU secretary, said those in charge claim that with ambition and hard work, young people can achieve anything. In reality, this is categorically not the case.
Young people are now “£200 a month worse off than they were ten years ago”. Young people face a “lifetime of servitude”, and the state pension is “continually being pushed out of reach”. This generation is told: “You own nothing, but should be happy”.
John Williams, a hospitality worker, spoke of “poverty wages and crap conditions”. Workplaces are understaffed and employees are overworked.
Sanjay Kumarendran, Cardiff University Socialist Students, spoke about his experience as a student with autism. Under capitalism, a person’s worth is defined by their ability to provide labour. Autistic and other disabled people may experience more difficulties in the workplace. Autistic people’s ability to get a job is sometimes celebrated as the ultimate sign of independence and autonomy, yet nobody asks whether they are happy or fulfilled.
There was a constant stream of people passing by our demo, and it was motivating to see many people stop to talk to us about their frustration with the situation and their desire to find a solution. We had a great turnout from the trade union councils from Gloucester and Bristol.
One 17-year-old worker we spoke to explained the struggles she has experienced while working in retail – not knowing her hours from one week to the next, being made to work while she was ill, and a manager who refused to give her a copy of her contract. When we said we were Socialist Party members, her face lit up, and she said: “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for”.
Saturday’s demo was just the beginning. Young people are becoming more and more disillusioned with capitalism. Now is our best opportunity to spread our message, and fight for socialism.
Amy Sage and Stephen Bennett
One student said: “We’re made to chase league tables, get the top grades, get a degree, and a masters, then end up in Pret on £8 an hour”
Another attendee said: “These jobs require emotional labour, as someone who struggles to even look people in the eye, what can I do?”.
After marching through the city centre, general secretary of the bakers’ union BFAWU, Sarah Woolley, ended the protest with a rousing call to take the fight to the Tories.
Chloe, a college student, said: “I’ve been homeless for two weeks and just got a place in a hostel. Anything we can do to give young people a future is important. I’ll join.”
A former print worker also joined the march: “This is great what you’re doing. We fought Thatcher at Wapping. We have to fight Johnson today.”
Glasgow hosted Scotland’s first Youth Fight for Jobs protest of the relaunched campaign. Our city will also soon host COP26.
Fiona Brittle, a member of civil service union PCS, said: “It’s so important for young workers and socialists to mobilise ahead of COP26, to demand significant and meaningful action from the Scottish government to tackle the climate emergency and create secure, well-paid green jobs for a just transition away from the fossil fuel economy.”
“The ruling class have demonstrated for years that they not only don’t care about how climate change, created by their capitalist machinations, threatens the working class, they actively benefit from the opportunity to exploit and squeeze us as a result of climate hardship.
“We need a systemic overhaul to fight the ecological crisis, ensure decent jobs and fair wages for workers, and start to repair the massive harm caused by austerity. And that overhaul must come from workers in solidarity with each other, unionised and organised.”
Youth Fight for Jobs worked alongside the local trade union council in order to provide a sound system, which allowed young people to speak freely about their experiences. Elliot Vaughan, a recent graduated, spoke about the pressure placed on young people to go to university in order to get a job.
A representative from the CWU said how excited he was by young people standing up for their rights and for a better future, and called for solidarity between young people and workers. A breakout meeting followed the protest, and the discussion continued.
The Youth Fight for Jobs rally joined a large town hall protest against an arms fair taking place in the city. We spoke from the rostrum and called for workers and youth to unite against capitalism and war.
Our youth marches show that a new generation is ready to begin our own fight against capitalism. By helping to organise young people within the trade unions, Youth Fight for Jobs can assist in this fight.
Young people, the youngest aged 12, were enthralled by Youth Fight for Jobs and the Socialist Party. They shared their frustrations and upset with inequality and discrimination.
We gathered with placards, trade union banners and flags, and a megaphone, which brought people over. And one person decided to join the Socialist Party on the day.
We certainly got people talking, and asking the important questions. Luckily, we had some solid socialist answers.
Our plan was ambitious – a flying picket moving through the town to stop outside employers and businesses particularly notorious for their low wages, poor conditions and discriminatory practices against employees.