Youth representatives in the European trade union movement generally hold positive views of the efforts of union confederations to connect with young workers. The most important field needing improvement are organizing campaigns, according to a study by Kurt Vandaele of the European Trade Union Institute.
It is a well-known fact that few young workers are union members. Sometimes, it is assumed that this is caused by individualism and lack of interest. However, various studies have shown that young workers are at least as interested as older workers in joining a union. Also, there are indications that the attitude towards unions in Europe has, if anything, become more positive since the early 1980s. This raises the question why this latent positive attitude does not translate into participation.
Vandaele argues that young people often work at companies and in industries where unions do not have a strong position, and often have precarious jobs. The youth representatives in his study say personal contact with union members or union officials is the main trigger to join a union. Therefore, they emphasize the role of organizing campaigns as a means to involve youth in the union. They consider this the most urgent issue after dealing with youth employment.
Vandaele thinks individual unions have an important role to play here, but also argues for a central youth organizing fund.
Kurt Vandaele (2012), Youth Representatives’ Opinions on Recruiting and Representing Young Workers: A Twofold Unsatisfied Demand? Due for publication in European Journal of Industrial Relations.