BWI youth festival shapes the future

Young construction workers head to Turkey

Reading time: 4 min

A delegation from Unite attended the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) Global Youth Festival in Turkey earlier this month.

The BWI’s second Global Youth Festival, it was a dynamic week of workshops, speakers and a chance to share experiences. Its ultimate aim was to build solidarity and youth activism that will push for a better future for young workers worldwide.

The event ran from May 8 to 11 at the Turkish Union of Road, Construction and Building Workers (Yo-lis) union-owned hotel and conference venue and brought together building workers from across the world.

Over 100 young construction trade unionists came together from 40 countries and from 49 construction unions (pictured below). This included 40 women, highlighting the diverse and inclusive nature of the global trade union movement.

Opening the festival, BWI general secretary Ambet Yuson emphasised the crucial role of young trade unionists in advancing workers’ rights, democracy, and peace worldwide.

Ambet drew from his own experiences as a former young union organiser in the Philippines and urged the new generation of BWI youth leaders to take the frontline in advocating for the rights of workers, women, migrants, and marginalised communities.

The UK delegation from Unite comprised Rebeckah Black, Jodie Mitchell, Connor Wagstaffe and EC Member Stuart Grice. They joined the other delegates taking part in a full program of activities and discussions over the four days. These included:

  • Young members perceptions towards the future and trade unions,
  • Technology in BWI Sectors: Exploring the digital future,
  • Origins of the trade union movement.
  • Climate justice and just transition.
  • Migration.
  • OHS and Mental Health.
  • Organising beyond barriers.
  • Young workers leading the charge – Next Gen campaigning get ready for the future.

The origins of the trade union movement discussion was run by the Global Labour Institute Manchester (GLI), with the session was led by Unite member Dave Spooner along with Georgia Montague-Nelson.

There were also two solidarity sessions with construction trade unionists from Ukraine and Palestine.

As well as a Unite EC member for the construction sector, Stuart Grice is also a BWI Youth Alumni, after coming up through the BWI youth structure over his time with the union.

Stuart said, “The Unite delegates spoke and contributed to the sessions on mental health, climate change, trade union history, migration and the future of the global trade union movement within the construction sector.”

Stuart extended his thanks to the BWI and the Yol-is union for their warm welcome and hospitality, adding, “The three young delegates that were lucky enough to attend the youth festival gained a huge amount of knowledge and inspiration.”

“The knowledge and passion of speakers and delegates shone through the construction sector as a bright future ahead internationally and nationally.”

By Keith Hatch

Main photo, (L-R): Unite members Rebeckah Black, Connor Wagstaffe, Jodie Mitchell and EC member Stuart Grice