Young Workers Get Organised

Submitted by Off The Rails on 29 June, 2008 - 12:08

Young RMT members demanded a renewed drive to organise young rail and transport workers at our annual conference in April.

Several motions reflected on the small size of the conference and resolved to improve young members’ organisation. The conference agreed that there should be a new campaign to encourage young member reps and activists, and that the union should have a young members’ organising strategy. Noting the mass exploitation of young workers in low-paid, casualised ‘McJobs’, we voted to actively recruit amongst low-paid agency workers in our industries.

The Norwegian oil workers’ union has employed a young members’ organiser, and built their young members’ conferences to over 100 in size. Their example inspired our conference to vote for staff within the RMT to help us achieve similar success here. The Organising Unit joined us for the afternoon, and scheduled a day where we can do some training and go out recruiting.

Delegates condemned the government’s increased ‘stop and search’ proposals for the police, and resolved to campaign for youth rights and positive solutions to problems faced by young working-class people. Another motion called for the union to campaign for affordable social housing for people not on the property ladder.

Guest speakers talked about the wider political context of their union work. Mick Cash, RMT Assistant General Secretary, talked about the importance of fighting politically as well as industrially. He said we are all part of a society and that politicians make decisions that impact on our lives, so we should have something to say.

A speaker from the Cuba Solidarity Campaign was questioned on what Cuba will be like after Castro, about the US blockade and what role a union such as the RMT has, considering there are no independent trade unions in Cuba to receive the RMT’s solidarity! Unsurprisingly, the speaker insisted that all trade unions in Cuba are elected and independent of the government.

Hamish from civil service union PCS gave a history of trade unions and class struggle through history, from the Romans to the Tolpuddle Martyrs to the miners’ strike. He showed that wherever workers organise, governments, even in the liberal ‘west’, have come down hard on workers’ organisation.

The run-up to the conference was plagued by a ‘breakdown of communication’ between head office and the young members. Motions from last year’s young members’ conference had not reached the AGM, and this year’s venue was changed at the last minute, without informing the young members’ liaison committee. Several motions reflected strong feeling about this, including one to de-select the general secretary! The motion fell, but hopefully the anger displayed will prevent further disregard of young members in future.

With a group of people determined to build young members’ organising and campaigning, we can be optimistic that we will be harder to ignore from now on.

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