EDITORIAL: Union must stay relevant to youth
Sometimes the findings?of a survey can be shocking and may cause disbelief but this certainly was not the case with the research done by the Productivity Council and released last week. That survey for the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations found that young Barbadians are not interested in joining the labour movement.
The labour movement for all the good it has done, and indeed still does, has lost much of its appeal, as many people, not only the youth, look at what relevance it has to them and their role in today’s workplace. It’s not because people do not know their roles, but because many young people do not face the challenges many workers of yesteryear faced.
The twinning of the labour movement and political parties, especially during the 1950s, 60 and 70s brought significant benefits for this country – such as good social legislation as it relates to holidays with pay, national insurance and social security, and certain health benefits.
The unions have been in the vanguard of workers causes – from education to housing and health care. Simply stated, our middle class owes its success and growth in many regards to organized labour, because it has been the actions of the trade unions which have allowed this reality. The unions also sponsored the establishment of cooperative credit unions, which have grown into significant institutions in our financial landscape.
Arguably no one will question the role and contribution of the trade union movement to Barbados, whether the powerful Barbados Workers’ Union or those looking after specific sectoral interests; teachers, nurses or even public officers.
Given this outstanding record of service, all for the betterment of mankind, and given that the trade unions will still be necessary five, ten or 15 years from now, there must be scientific evidence showing why the current lot workers are apparently losing faith in the labour movement.
To compound matters, sometimes the actions and reactions of the unions can make some of those workers who really need to have an industrial relations representative think twice. Some industrial relations disputes of recent years may have even done the unions more harm than good.
We are living in a rapidly changing society, and the labour movement needs to do some self examination to see whether it too has been changing, and changing fast enough. The unions need to attract young fresh faces all in an effort to stay relevant. The labour movement needs to understand its constituents and respond to their needs.