Young trade unionists from BWI affiliates across the globe have spoken up boldly at the BWI World Congress in Durban (South Africa), demanding more representation within the movement and a stronger voice on the job.
“Today young workers face an uncertain future with high unemployment rates and working in precarious jobs for low wages with no real security or benefits, and yet in most countries they are the least represented in union membership”, said Vasyl Andreyev, President of PROFBUD (Ukraine) and a strong advocate of youth involvement in BWI and the overall trade union movement. “We need to transform our movement into a place where youth feel comfortable joining and empowered in taking action.”
The BWI World Congress included a Global Youth Forum, in which young workers were able to share experiences of how work affects young workers. Participants touched on issues like health and safety, precarious work, and the importance of having a trade union movement that was representative of the workforce, so young people can connect with it more easily.
They called for the creation of a BWI International Youth Committee, representation for Youth in the BWI World Council and World Board, the allocation of resources and support for youth campaigns and the establishment of a Youth Activist and Organising Academy, along with a BWI Global Youth Network. For many young delegates, it was an opportunity for them to be integrated into every facet of the week-long World Congress activities. It also provided them the opportunity to fine-tune their lobbying and organizing skills by collectively lobbying the entire Congress to pass Resolution 14 which called for the creation of formal BWI youth structures. These lobbying efforts proved successful, with the Resolution 14 passing unanimously.
“Decisions concerning the youth cannot be made without our involvement as we are the future of BWI and the future of global trade union movement,” Enwich Kazondu, from the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (MANWU), who spoke to the resolution at the World Congress.
With changes in the BWI statutes, the World Council will now include the Chairs of the respective Regional Youth Committees. However, the formalization of these structures in all regions will take another year. To facilitate this process, the World Council appointed Vasyl Andreyev as a member of the World Board.
Young BWI leaders also took the lead in the Solidarity March, which moved from the Durban International Convention Centre to the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium, built by BWI members for the 2010 World Cup.