And now we return to Wales – where Unite member Majid Rahman tells Hajera Blagg why he’s standing as a Labour candidate for the Welsh Senedd
As a young person desperately trying to enter the job market at the height of the last major economic crisis, Newport Labour councillor and Unite member Majid Rahman is eager to help young people get through the present one.
“When I finished university, it was the peak of the financial crisis and there just weren’t any jobs,” Majid, who is standing as a candidate for Welsh Labour in the Senedd elections (regions), told UNITElive. “I applied to loads and loads of jobs, all over Wales and England, but had no luck.”
Born and bred in Newport, Wales, in a very diverse, working-class area called Maindee, Majid was the first in his family to go to university, thanks in large part to educational maintenance grants (EMAs) that had been scrapped in England but were kept by the Welsh Labour government.
“I was very lucky to have the opportunity to go to university and I want to make sure that young people today can have the same opportunities or better ones,” he said.
After struggling to find work, Majid decided instead to volunteer in his community with local charities. He eventually found work in a call centre, which is when he joined Unite.
“I made sure as soon as I was earning that I would join a union and I would join Unite because of the really great work they had done in my sector,” Majid explained. “I also share the same aims and values as Unite – standing up for the vulnerable and working people.”
Since joining Unite, Majid became particularly involved in the union’s Black and Asian Ethnic Minority (BAEM) committee locally.
For Majid, joining a union was especially important for him because of his family’s background and the struggles they faced growing up.
“In my family we have a history of being exploited in the workplace. When I was little, the minimum wage didn’t exist,” he explained. “When my dad first came over to the UK from Bangladesh, he, like many migrant workers, didn’t know his rights. He earned a pittance working extremely long hours in the catering sector and later as a waiter in restaurants, all while having to support a growing family. Coming from this background, I know how important it is to have the right representation in work.”
Because of Majid’s work in the community volunteering for charities, friends and family encouraged him to stand as a councillor in his community, a position to which he was elected in 2012 and has held since. Over the years he’s taken on more responsibility, first as chair of the scrutiny committee and most recently as a cabinet member during the pandemic.
“My main role that I’ve taken on is BAEM champion,” Majid noted. “Since virtually the beginning of the pandemic a strong link emerged between BAEM communities and higher Covid death rates. I’ve been involved in a sub-group to investigate this link – I’ve helped with evidence gathering and also helped put together a race equality action plan currently under consultation.”
The pandemic, Majid said, in many ways “opened his eyes” and has in part motivated him to stand as a candidate in the Senedd elections.
‘I want to get involved’
“I want to be part of the solution,” he said. “I don’t want to just sit back and moan and commentate. That’s the type of person I am – I want to get involved and do my part. What excites me most is that Labour has a plan not to just take us back to where we were before the pandemic but also move us forward – by tackling the climate crisis and creating jobs. There’s a whole generation of young people who are going to lose out if we don’t take action to give them opportunities.”
For Majid, a Covid recovery is the front and centre issue in the upcoming elections.
“We have to make sure we’re strengthening our NHS, and strengthening our schools and education system. We have to make sure local councils are properly funded because they are just as much on the frontline of this pandemic alongside, for example, the NHS and the police.”
A Covid recovery should have young people at its heart, Majid added.
“We have to make sure we’re creating jobs for young people – that we’re giving them the training, education and other opportunities to help them succeed. And it’s also vital that we live in a greener society that commits to going carbon neutral, that we recycle more and that we create jobs in the green sector. In this sense, you can kill two birds with one stone — you create well-paid, high-skill jobs for younger people in the low-carbon sectors and also make sure you’re contributing to tackling climate change.”
Majid sees voting for Welsh Labour and the Labour Party more generally in the upcoming elections as the only real option for Unite members.
“A lot of people forget that the Labour Party was created by the trade unions,” he said. “It was created as a support mechanism for working people and only Labour can hold that mantle. I urge Unite members to remember that the party is there for them – it’s the only way we as working people will have our voices heard in the halls of power.”
If you live in Wales and want to help Majid or other Unite candidates standing for office contact the Unite Wales regional office and ask to speak to the regional political officer.
Wherever you live if would like to help Unite candidates in your area or to find out more see here
By Hajera Blagg
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