UNISON represents over 64,000 young members working in health and social care, local government, police and justice and education, as well as in the community and voluntary sectors, utilities, environment services and transport.
Young workers have borne the brunt of COVID-19 in terms of employment. In May-July 2020, the number of young people (16-24) in employment fell by 156,000 compared to the previous quarter. Government figures show that 291,000 more young people were claiming Universal Credit in August 2020 than were claiming in March.
UNISON’s national young members officer Josephine Grahl says: “Between February and June of 2020 we had a 4.6% increase in membership of young members in UNISON.
“Young workers clearly recognise that the difficult times we’re living through mean that there’s never been a better time to join a union, and across the country UNISON will be campaigning and bargaining to make sure that all workers are protected at work.
“Young workers month is a great opportunity to talk about the issues facing young workers. We are conducting a survey of young members to give us a really clear picture of their experiences during the pandemic and this will help us campaign and bargain on the issues that really matter to young workers right now.”
Pandemic poses new problems
UNISON chair of the national young members forum Jess McGuire adds: “The pandemic has posed new problems for young workers in UNISON. Some of us have been on the frontlines providing essential services and health care throughout the crisis, others of us have found ourselves isolated as we work from home.
“But we’ve tried to stay active with online meetings and we’ve been able to support each other and make sure young members’ voices continue to be heard in UNISON’s campaigns.”
With so many young people in insecure work, and with apprenticeships and training programmes being paused, young people are also worried about being left behind in any future recovery.
UNISON does’t want a return to normal after the pandemic. The union wants young workers to have secure jobs, training and support at work and to have healthy and safe workplaces.
“We’re hoping this month will be rich with conversations, events and spaces for young members to voice their experiences,” says Josephine.
UNISON is running a survey to hear directly from young members, and on 27 November will be hosting an event with Shadow Minister for Young People Cat Smith MP to discuss what the post-COVID recovery should look like in order to avoid young workers paying the price of the pandemic.