ASLEF at TUC Young Workers Conference 2021
This year’s young workers conference took place online 27 – 28 March. Our delegation was made up of James Sutherland (YMRC Chair, District 3) , Lukas Sutcliffe (Elected lay member and YMRC District 4), Hollie Yates(YMRC Secretary,District 5) and Rob Spilsbury (elected lay member District 6).
The conference focused on the impact that the pandemic has had on young workers and looked at ways the union movement could work to ensure that young workers aren’t left paying the price for the UK’s recovery.
Below is a summary of the conference.
Saturday 27th March
Conference began with an address from TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady as she highlighted some of the gains of the union movement over the last year.
Conference opened up into a debate around the impact of the pandemic on young workers with Alica Durant making ASLEF’s intervention to highlight the young workers who will struggle due to the pandemic but will then be needed to repair the damage.
after the debate Charlotte Nichols MP (Shadow Minister for WOmen and Equality) addressed conference to highlight the importance of getting young workers organised and registered to vote and engage with the political system to ensure that politicians have to factor in the wants and needs of young workers.
The first day of conference concluded with a panel discussion covering how to prevent mass unemployment of young people. The panel featured Paul Fleming (Equity General Secretary), Amy Doyley (TUC YOung WOrkers Forum and MU member) and Alex Collinson (TUC Analysis and Research Officer). The discussion looked at how the number of under 25s on payroll had fallen over the last year and how young workers had been disproportionately impacted due to the precariousness of the sectors they are working in. The panel discussed how unions could collectively address the issue and push the government to address these concerns. One possible solution discussed was the need for greater investment in new green jobs within the public sector.
Sunday 28 March
The second day of conference began with an address from Shavanah Taj (Wales TUC General Secretary). Shavanah highlighted the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on BAME communities and the systemic racism present within the UK, outlining that as a movement unions need to continue tackling racism in the workplace and society.
The final session of conference was a debate on the mental health of young workers. Many unions gave interventions highlighting how the pandemic has impacted on the mental health of young workers through job loses, work pressures and the impact it has had on their professional development and social life. Lukas Sutcliffe gave ASLEF’s intervention, highlighting the increase in the rate of suicide in the under 25s.
ASLEF’s Motion to Conference
Stop future pension poverty
Conference commends the introduction of auto-enrolment workplace pension schemes, a policy that has increased young workers access to save for retirement. A report from The Pensions Regulator stated that participation in workplace pension schemes for 22-29-year-olds increased from 24% to 84% between 2012 and 2018.
Conference acknowledges that statistics show to have a comfortable retirement a worker needs to be saving on average 12-15% of their earnings; the minimum requirement for auto-enrolment is 8% falling woefully short of this figure and will leave many young workers living in poverty upon retirement.
Furthermore auto-enrolment is only available to workers aged 22 and above penalising younger workers. In 2017, the government made suggestions they may lower this age to 18 but this is yet to be introduced.
Conference therefore calls on the TUC Young Workers Forum to –
- Lobby the government to increase the minimum contribution levels required in auto-enrolment pension schemes.
- Begin a campaign calling for the age requirement to be reduced to enable workers aged 18 and above to be auto-enrolled into workplace pension schemes.
- Highlight to affiliates the shortfalls of the current scheme and the potential of pension poverty for today’s young workers.
- Launch a campaign for young workers highlighting that it is never too early to beginning thinking about your pension.