DEBATE: With membership among young people dropping, can unions still be relevant to millennials?

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Unions should be constructive, seeking solutions for the modern workplace (Source: Getty)

With membership among young people dropping, can unions still be relevant to millennials?

Miriam Mirwitch, national chair of Young Labour, says YES.

Trade unions are more relevant to millennials than ever before.

Unions give us the collective voice to fight for better pay and conditions at work. With so many young people in insecure and low-paid work, the protection and collective strength that union membership provides is vital.

Unions are modern, dynamic organisations that win vital victories for all of us, from Unison’s scrapping of employment tribunal fees, to GMB’s victory for Uber drivers.

The headlines about falling membership mask the ways young people are passionately participating in union action. The BAFWU McStrike campaign, which is fighting for better conditions and pay at McDonalds, is led by young workers, while the campaign for fair pay and tips at TGI Fridays is led by young Unite members. Across the country, we saw thousands of millennials join picket lines in solidarity during the UCU strike.

It is essential that young people are taught about trade unions in schools, and encouraged to join. They’re relevant and vital for our working lives.

Read more: Young people turn away from trade unions as generational pay gap widens

Emma Barr, head of communications at the Centre for Policy Studies, says NO.

The issue here isn’t about unions being relevant to millennials – it’s about being relevant to modern workers full stop.

Unions which act as a voice for their members, a champion for the workforce and a vehicle to allow bosses and workers to communicate effectively, are still both relevant and valuable.

The problem is that there aren’t enough of these. The current hard-left Corbynite ideology that dominates the leadership of unions such as Unite works against the interests of workers – not just because it distracts unions from supporting their members’ interests, but because it means backing ideas that would fundamentally damage our economy and business environment.

Unions must be constructive, seeking solutions for the modern workplace. Yet those like the RMT set themselves against passengers when they oppose reform – which both alienates the public, and makes the railways worse.

Unions can and should still be relevant – but not those that retain their current politicised form.

Read more: Uh-oh millennials: London is now the second-priciest city for avocados

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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