Some 45 young union leaders representing 23 national unions from 10 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) met in Marrakesh, Morocco on 20-21 December 2016 for the IndustriALL Global Union youth conference.
In a key outcome, participants from IndustriALL affiliates in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Turkey set up the IndustriALL MENA Youth Network and resolved to campaign at national levels to organize more young people into unions.
Many of the participants work in multinational companies and brands' supply chains. The conference saw active and fruitful discussions, which highlighted the challenges for unions to organize young people in the region. The lack of job opportunities in the region, particularly for young people, is a considerable obstacle.
Participants said that one of the most important challenges for unions is attracting young workers to join the union movement. Unions should explore ways to increase young people's confidence and integration within trade union structures.
Furthermore, because of the lack of jobs and the volatility of the labour market, young people are very afraid of losing their job. Their main priority is to find work and not join a union, causing difficulties when it comes to recruitment.
Participants also said that young people lack knowledge about their rights. All the participants agreed that it is vital to raise awareness among youth about basic trade union rights. This could be one of the solutions to end the fear linked to joining a union.
Jenny Holdcroft, IndustriALL's assistant general secretary, said:
"The in-depth discussions showed the sizeable challenges of union youth work in a vibrant and dynamic region. But they also showed the great potential of future union leaders and touched upon strategies that IndustriALL and MENA affiliates can apply to organize the young workforce.