It took Unite delegate Tony Davies three apprenticeships to finally find one that didn’t exploit him.
This he said was his own example of “what young people will be left with if we do not succeed in bringing them into the trade union movement.”
Speaking in support of a motion on young people on Monday (September 10) at TUC conference, Tony said that “whenever phrases like ‘industrial strategy’ are debated, the question of skills and apprenticeships is never far behind.
“Traditionally high-quality apprenticeships were supposed to be an alternative – but equivalent — to a higher education qualification,” he noted. “A pathway to a high skilled, well paid and secure job.”
“But that is not what young people are being offered.”
He called his own experience with exploitative apprenticeships “beyond satire” when he was “‘employed’ – if that’s the right word – by an ‘apprenticeship farm.’”
“It was a firm which produced nothing,” Tony said. “It served no one. It offered nothing. It was a firm which made all of its profit from offering young people bogus apprenticeships. Not a pathway to a career, but a dead end to nowhere.
This, Tony argued, is what happens when trade union membership among workers under 25 stands at only 4.7 per cent.
“This is what happens when young people do not have the collective strength to raise standards – and win security, certainty and hope for a decent future,” he added.
Tony said that zero hours contracts and other exploitative work arrangements are allowed to flourish because they are mostly taken up by young people who are not trade union members – a trend that must change.
“The ideas of trade unionism do not spread by some inner magic,” he said. “They spread – like wildfire – when they respond to the needs of the hour.
“Congress, let us declare 2019 to be the Year of the Young Workers,” Tony added.
He urged conference to support the motion as he called for a renewed commitment to the eradication of zero hours contracts and precarious work, as well as a renewed commitment to “our historic promise of securing a better future for all workers.”
The motion was carried.