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Guest article: the #respectyouryouth charter

May 20th 2017

UNISON Cymru recently launched their #respectyouryouth charter – calling for a real living wage for young people, quality apprenticeships, and an end to zero/low hours contracts. Their press officer, Alastair Gittins, speaks to their Organiser for Young Members, Mark Turner, about the difference it could make for young people in Wales.

If you were passing Cardiff pub 10 Feet Tall at the end of April you would have heard blistering guitar riffs through the open window. That was local band the Sandinistas tearing through their set list. You might be surprised to learn they were supporting a trade union launch event.

Mark Turner, UNISON Cymru’s Organiser for Young Members was there that night. Mark, is UNISON going into the music business?

Not quite. We booked the Sandinistas to help launch our young members’ charter #respectyouryouth and they did us proud with an absolutely belting performance; exactly the ‘bang’ you want for a launch event.

Why is UNISON making a fuss about young people’s rights?

We’re taught growing up to ‘respect your elders’ and there’s no thought given to making sure young adults are fairly treated too. You look at the world they are entering and it’s pretty bleak. What are their prospects? They’ve been hit hard by huge spending cuts. Wales has a high level of youth unemployment and an apprenticeship system that is not working. If you do have a job there’s a good chance you’re on low pay and a zero hours contract with no prospect of any training. If you’re studying at university there are high tuition fees. Housing rents are steep and house prices are out of this world. How on earth are you expected to build a life for yourself?

We’re not giving young people the best start in life they need. Many young workers are trapped in poverty despite working as hard as they can because employers try to save costs by employing workers on poor conditions.

The Welsh economy needs quality apprenticeships and training. Yet 30 per cent of 16-18 year olds don’t receive the Apprenticeship National Minimum Wage; 21 per cent of apprentices don’t get formal training. That’s not fair. A third of apprentices drop out. We’re just not giving them a fair crack.

Young adults entering the world of work or education want the same as the rest of us: to feel a valued member of society and to get decent housing and raise a family. My trade union is rooted in the community we represent and we’re fed up with this situation. UNISON Cymru/Wales has decided to fight back because young people represent the future workforce and deserve better. That’s why UNISON young members decided to launch a campaigning charter last month to win what should be theirs by right.

 What’s in UNISON’s #respectyouryouth charter?

Our charter has five key demands that would transform the quality of life of Welsh young people: a real living wage regardless of age – £8.45 an hour for all; quality apprenticeships which are used to offer decent training and work and are not just a way for employers to avoid paying the correct wage for the job.

We want fair employment and an end to zero hours or low hours contracts; equality in the workplace and training and development opportunities which offer a chance of a career.

What are you going to do with the charter?

We’ll be doing everything we can to publicise this charter in the media, amongst young people and politicians. Our key focus will be to encourage all employers across Wales to sign up. If we don’t invest in young people, how else are they going to be able to make a life for themselves?

 Sounds like a great campaign. Good luck to UNISON young members! Is there anything else you want to say?

I’d urge all young people to make sure they have a voice in the general election. Register to vote now don’t let others dictate your future!

Find out more about UNISON’s #respectyouryouth charter by clicking here.

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