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Organise more young workers, say south Asia’s young trade unionists

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25 March, 2024In March, as part of the Building inclusive unions in South Asia project, supported by Union to Union, IndustriALL organized workshops for young trade unionists in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

The workshop in Pakistan was held on 6-7 March. Around 23 young unionists participated in the workshop, of which ten were women. The focus of the workshop was on organizing and building strong democratic unions. Participants identified various challenges confronting young workers that prevent them from joining a union or actively participating in union activities. These include employers’ negative approach to workers’ right to organize, fear of losing one’s job in an environment where unemployment is high, and an increase in informalisation of work.

In the workshop conducted in Bangladesh on 9-10 March, young trade unionists shared similar challenges. Participants discussed ways to overcome the above mentioned challenges and ensure successful organizing of young workers. Young leaders drew up an action plan to reach out to more young workers in various factories in the country. They also identified the need to have more young unionists in the leadership roles in the union so that young workers feel more connected and assured that their issues would not be ignored. Participants vowed to actively work towards increasing the union density in Bangladesh which is extremely low at present. 

Ashutosh Bhattacharya, IndustriALL’s south Asia regional secretary, says:

“There is a strong need for young workers to lead unions from the front. We are seeing an increasing informalisation of work in the region and more young workers, including young women, are being hired as contractual workers. Young workers will feel more connected to the union if they see their co-workers in leadership roles.”

On 13-14 March, a similar workshop was organized in India. Around 29 young leaders participated, of which eleven were young women. The first day focused on aspects that makes a union powerful, like a strong membership. Participants underscored the need for more young workers in union spaces, and they also discussed about ways to connect with more young workers. Participants discussed some of the significant developments of last year around three priority areas from IndustriALL’s youth resolution that young leaders had identified in 2022- end to gender-based violence, standard employment contract for all workers, and continuous and in-depth training in areas related to the world of work.

The young leaders also dwelled on the future course of action. They planned to profile youth membership, including young women, within their respective federations. They also decided to reconstitute the India national youth committee where all affiliates would be equally represented and will have an equal gender representation. The committee will be tasked with developing strategies and action plans on the three priority areas that the leaders identified in this meeting- (1) end to gender-based-violence, (2) equal jobs, equal pay and equal rights, (3) mentoring by senior leadership of respective unions.

Sarah Flores, IndustriALL’s youth and project officer, says:

“It is good to see that young unionists in south Asia are the young activists advocating for an inclusive and transformative union agenda and emphasising the importance of organizing young workers.”