The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), to which IndustriALL Global Union affiliates – the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union, the National Union of Mineworkers, and the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union – belong, recently launched a young workers forum to promote peer-to-peer recruitment and organizing, build leadership capacity of youth in unions, promote health and safety training, and fight precarious work.
Conditions for the South African youth are dire. According to Statistics South Africa’s 4th Quarterly Labour Force Survey for 2017, 2.3 million youths aged 25-34 years are unemployed while a further 2.4 million are “not economically active”. Some have become discouraged work seekers who can’t find jobs or are unable to find work requiring their skills. Not surprising that some have “lost hope in finding any kind of work.” This means most of the youth live in poverty in one of the most unequal countries in the world. However, of the 4, 9 million employed there is a huge responsibility which includes providing for siblings and family members. In some instances, they do so while raising their own families.
COSATU reasons that for the youth’s ideas to be effective, they need their own forum which is linked to the federation. This would deal with issues including how to integrate the youth into the union through worker education, involvement in collective bargaining, and health and safety training among other aspects of union life.
Says the young workers forum:
Young people constitute a large section of the poor, the unemployed, the underemployed and those confronted by precarious work. They are exposed to informal and insecure work arrangements with limited possibilities for career development. They are the ones who are trapped in part-time and seasonal employment, and the most exposed to unsafe workplaces with limited rights under international labour standards.
Explains Sarah Flores IndustriALL global youth projects officer:
Recognizing the critical role played by the youth in the future of unions is important. Whilst previous generations of union leadership laid the foundations for strong unions, young workers must now take the responsibility of shaping the union into the future.
With support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, IndustriALL will conduct workshops to further develop the capacity young unionists in South Africa, and a Southern African regional conference will take place later this year.
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