By Victor Young
A few days ago no fewer than 23 young unionists under the aegis of Young Workers Movement, YWM, graduated from a six month intensive training in Lagos, aimed at preparing them for leadership positions in trade unions.
Coordinated by the Fredrick Ebert Foundation, FEF in partnership with IndustriALL Global Union, participants were nominated by industrial unions and some civil society groups.
Welcoming labour leaders and the graduating young unionists, FEF Resident Representative in Nigeria, Mr Ulrich Thum, lamented that most unions leaders were aging and the unions were dying out, contending that the new world of work needed a new generation of unionists to the deal with the challenges.
According to him, “unions are competing with other platforms in activism, social issues previously considered as exclusive preserved of the trade unions such as rights and advocacies. Women group, rights groups and others are now involved in these issues. Unions need to get younger workers to compete with these competitors. These young workers need to be educated on how to address crowd, write documents, know labour rights, conventions, laws and other basic requirements to be able to be effective.”
While commending FEF for the programme, Vice President of IndustriALL Global Union, African Region, Issa Aremu, said the programme was a simple idea that had now become a reality with the support of FEF.
According to him, participants were now knowledgeable about unionism, decent work, solidarity among others and corroborated Thum that unions were in fact, dying in not dead.
He said “Before we consciously recruited young ones into the unions to be future leaders, but today it is not the case. The existing unionists cannot do it alone; the young ones most join hands to rescue the unions. The unions need young workers to bring in new ideas to sustain the unions.”
While responding later to some of the interventions by labour leaders that the younger unionists were too much in a hurry to take over leaders after presentations by the graduating young unionists, Aremu noted that there must be a meeting point between the young and the older unionists.
According to him, the younger unionists seemed to be in a hurry to take over leaders because the older ones appeared to be too slow and complacent.
He urged the graduating young unionist to strive to become resource persons and impact the knowledge they had acquired to other, advising that “as you are in a hurry, you must learn from those ahead of you (older ones). Young ones should take the opportunity at hand, nobody is going to give it to you. Have the passion and build your union. It is important to constructively build the union.”
In a chat, Thum, told Vanguard that the programme “is aimed to train young people from the trade unions, get them more involved and more active in the trade union movement. It is to give them some skills, some background and the knowledge of the trade union movement. This programme is in cooperation with IndustriALL Global Union.
“We have participants from industrial unions and civil society organizations. We are hoping that they are going to be several follow- up programmes by the unions. We met with the leadership of the unions today and they presented us with what the learnt including their recommendations. We hope that the current leadership of various unions and umbrella bodies are going to incorporate youths better into the movement
“The target is to get more young people into the movement, to encourage trade unions to actively build youths wings and integrate young people into the movement. This is the only way they can continue their work as trade unions because young people know the new reality of work, can face and respond to the modern challenges of today.
“The trade unions need to modernize to know how to respond to different types of outsourcing and other kinds of precarious works. The trade unions can only do that only if they catch up with their opponents, which are the employers. Trade unions are still writing letters and still operating in old times and with old techniques. The modern employers, global companies are no longer using handwritten letters.
“The unions need revert to the technological affinity of young people in the movement. The trade unions need to find new ways of Organising. Some of the organizing is still underground and in the factory. They need to adapt to reality. Young people communicate differently today. They use their phones; they have different apps and chat rooms to communicate. The trade unions should take advantage of these modern technological tools to organize young workers better.”