GMB Young Members: At The Heart Of A 21st Century Union

Our young members are a huge source of pride for our region - they're active, organised and producing future leaders in our movement.

We see it on the shop floor with young member reps who stand up for their fellow workers and fight for better pay, terms and conditions and health and safety.

We see it in our region across Sheffield, Wakefield and Leeds with fantastic young GMB Councillors stepping up to the plate and representing their communities.

And we'll see it after the AGM today when everyone heads to the Rally for Free Education to support a fellow young activist speaking from the platform on a critical issue for young people.

And that's not even the half of it.

Those are just a few of the reasons why when I hear people say that 'young members are the future of our movement', I politely remind them that they (you!) are the present too.

Starting your working life in 2015 is no picnic.

The world of work has changed a lot since I first clocked on in a London post room 35 years ago.

Gone are the days of jobs and skills for life. Instead you're in a world of zero hours contracts, paying off student loans at the same time as paying into a pension, thinking that you'd like to buy a house but not knowing how you'd ever afford to save the deposit, especially as too often the  minimum wage doesn't deliver equal pay for equal work.

Never has our union been more important, nor young members' role in it. Because as the world of work changes so must our movement.

That means looking at how young members are represented in our union structures so your voices are always heard. I fully support GMB Young Members' Network but what's next? How about full voting rights on the CEC (which should be additional to current seats, not replacing someone else).  I know a lot of members would like a national youth officer, there's a great case to be made. These are all issues for young members to debate and to organise for - with me there will always be an open door and a willing ear to those ideas.

There are so many opportunities to grow our young member base. That might mean spending some time speaking to young people who are not in the union to ask them 'why not?'. Increasing numbers of young people are taking apprenticeships, there are new, emerging industries where young people are more likely to work that remain unorganised, that means huge potential to build our union and activism.

Part of realising that potential will mean looking at how we communicate, and not just send our message out into the world but how we actually engage with people about it.

A 21 year old worker today probably won't communicate in the same way as someone in their 50s (that's one of the reasons I started using social media - you can find me at Twitter at @tim_roache or search for me on Facebook). That has implications for how we reach people, but also how we operate. Young members are increasingly more likely to want advice online, by email or a way easy to access by smart phone when they're on the move. The expectation of quick response times because of the immediacy of text and email has increased. These are challenges but opportunities too.

We need to make sure the union movement keeps up, that we know our thunderclaps from our snapchat and our Instagram so that we can reach more people than ever before and be part of their lives on a day to day basis wherever they work. To be clear, that's not in place of tried and tested organising on the ground. It's about enhancing it, giving us more tools in our arsenal.

By being willing to try new ideas and ways of working, by campaigning on issues relevant to daily life of young members, by using all methods of communication available to us and first and foremost listening to and being led by the realities and needs of young members, we'll have the makings of a genuine 21st century union movement. That's what I'm committed to.

Neil's Blog

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