Just one year after the adoption of the European Youth Action Plan, young unionists from across Europe have already managed to develop 20 national plans and begin their implementation. The recent conference in Zagreb gave participants the opportunity to develop even more national plans. A preliminary list of more than half of these plans can be accessed in the annex of our latest position paper on the situation of young people. A complete overview will be presented at industriAll Europe’s mid-term conference in May in Thessaloniki. 

Most national plans focus on recruiting and organising young members and have clear quantitative targets for increasing the union density within the coming months. Some also focus on developing a youth structure, with the aim of improving the representation of young voices within unions, so that young workers can better identify with their organisations. The success rate of these plans however, depends on how much support young unionists receive.

These concrete results within a short timespan of only a couple of months prove the high potential of young unionists. IndustriAll Europe’s Youth Working Group has managed to develop over 20 national plans thanks to the inspiration and support received during only two workshops (in Cluj in June 2022 and in Madrid in December 2022). Their implementation resulted in concrete actions at national level. For example, in Romania, young unionists from METAROM organised sport competitions and learning seminars for workers as part of their action plan. The aim was to create an interesting environment within the union. The results were immediately apparent, as more workers joined the union. In Poland, young unionists from OPZZ are preparing a social media campaign and a new website, with the aim of reaching more workers through digital communication. The initial testing phases showed positive responses. 

In Zagreb, participants were particularly inspired by the best practice of IGBCE, where each body of the union includes one seat for a youth representative with voting rights. Through this practice, IGBCE has managed to recruit over 70% of apprentices as soon as they begin their apprenticeships. Young participants from Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, France and Croatia are now also planning to develop a youth structure aimed at increasing their youth memberships.

Recruiting and organising young workers is now more important than ever in the current context of the triple social, economic and climate crises. Workers and trade union rights have been under attack for the past decades, resulting in a more and more precarious labour market. Young people are the most affected by this phenomenon (47% are on a temporary contract, with low pay, no access to training; 37% are forced to take part-time jobs; many are on unpaid internships; and 1 in 4 young Europeans are at risk of poverty).

These are the effects of the three crises throughout the past 15 years, and they have mostly hit the younger generation. Trade unions must involve young members in all their structures. Young members are the voice of the young generation, a generation that is currently being left behind. By giving young people the space to make their voices heard, unions can better adopt policies and actions to fight precariousness. Without this, precariousness risks becoming the norm, sooner or later.

Isabelle Barthès, industriAll Europe’s Deputy General Secretary, said: 

“We are impressed by the enthusiasm and energy of our young members, who prove that young people are happy to get involved in trade unions, if only they are given a chance. We are currently at a crossroads in the European industry and economy, with a record tight labour market, a cost-of-living crisis and the twin green and digital transitions. All these forces are shaping the world of work and we need to make sure that the outcome will be good quality, green and digital jobs for everybody. The massive transformation is ongoing and young people are in the middle of it. It is our duty to help them make their voices heard.”