Comrades, I am thrilled to be hear today and to have been given the opportunity to address you on behalf of young members. I want to thank you all for the opportunity.
I’m Kay Page and I am a Unite Young activist and currently sit on the young member’s committee in Wales. I am passionate about the movement, locally and internationally, but more than this I am committed to engaging with our young member’s and to helping them secure the future that they envision for the future.
We know that young people are unfairly treated in the media, demonised as uncaring, feckless and selfish and we know that they are so much more than this. When young people are engaged, listened to and considered, they prove themselves to be incredibly passionate, able to make positive changes when equipped with the right tools.
I have had this proven to me time and time again, whether it be the young people in education that I met through the Unite In Schools programme, where 15-16 year olds described their anger at the pittance paid to apprentices and the under 18s.
Or the young members that I met at the Eastbourne Equalities Conference earlier this year, dedicated and committed activists and reps that have already had an impact on their local communities and workplaces.
Young people do care about their futures and that of the country and the Union movement plays an important role in supporting and training up these young activists.
International Worker’s Day remembers the struggles and the victories of our brothers and sisters, and it inspires us the future of the movement. Yet at the same time it raises the question, what next? What can we do next?
While the workplaces and the struggles have greatly changed over the last twenty years, the battles remain as present as ever and we young people, in particular, have a lot to fight for. With almost a million young people still unemployed and extortionate tuition fees putting many off further education, the future can sometimes look hopeless.
Our movement must help fight for a better future for our young people, campaigning for investment in sustainable forms of employment and encouraging companies to invest in apprenticeships, an important source of training and work for thousands of young people.
At the same time we still have a duty to help those young people that are in employment, organising in their sectors and work to extend our membership. In retail, in the food and hospitality sector and the call centres that are so often referred to as the “factories of today” thousands of young people remain unrepresented.
While the sectors, the industries and the roles have changed, the principles and fights remain the same. In all areas in which young people work, we must help them to improve their rights and ensure that their workplaces are fair and just places to work.
I am proud that our movement has led the fight back against zero hours contracts, raising the issue in the media and forcing debate on the exploitation of these members of staff.
To finish comrades I just wanted to leave you with a quote from our late but inspiring brother Tony Benn, a quote that will be relevant for the fights that we young people face. ““IT’S THE SAME EACH TIME WITH PROGRESS. FIRST THEY IGNORE YOU, THEN THEY SAY YOU’RE MAD, THEN DANGEROUS, THEN THERE’S A PAUSE AND THEN YOU CAN’T FIND ANYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH YOU.”