Towards the ETUCE Conference: Embracing young members in the education trade unions


In light of the upcoming ETUCE Conference 2020 on Campaigning to Enhance the Teaching Profession for Solidarity, Equality, Democracy and Sustainability, the Secretariat is organising a series of pre-Conference webinars.

On 10 November 2020, the webinar “Education Trade Unions and young members: Embracing young members in the education trade unions” gathered almost 100 participants. Looking at how member organisations had implemented the ETUCE Resolution on Education Trade Unions and Youth, ETUCE member organisations shared their experiences with young members, their specific needs and the contribution to the work of education trade unions. Galina Merkulova, ETUCE Vice-President and chair of the webinar highlighted that today’s trade union work with young people will determine the future of all trade union organisations and as such will have a tremendous impact on the entire trade union movement: “It is important not only to defend and represent interests and rights of young people but to actively involve them in trade union work and activities”. Invited guest Matthias Weber, FES Director, Regional Project for Labour Relations and Social Dialogue in Central Eastern and Southeast Europe, further underlined this statement.

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It emerged that while some education trade unions could rely on a continued high number of young activists amongst their membership, like KTUESW Kazakhstan, where Aigul Mukasheva explained that policies with a particular focus on issues around youth were a priority for the union and showed that young people aged up to 35 years constitute about 32,7 % of the trade union population, other unions had to develop new ideas of addressing young teachers. Explaining why ZNP had established its Young Trade Union Academy in Poland, Dorota Obidniak said: “Since 2000 the number of students has decreased by three million in Poland. Annually, about 10 000 teachers have left the teaching profession. The average age in the teaching profession is 49 – 50 years and the inflow to the teaching profession is very low while at the same time there is a lack of interest in belonging to a trade union. Today, young members are less visible and rarely elected for decision-making bodies. Establishing the Young Trade Union Academy was the solution to acknowledge that young members are the future of the union.”

In a joint presentation Nathalie Schäfer and Mine Hänel, GEW Germany, explained the work of the Federal Committee of Students and the Federal Committee of young trade union members presenting how the structures of a student representative body can successfully work with a trade union structure representing young teaching professionals. “Young members are not only the future but are the present already”, they said.

Amongst the ideas shared from participants to the webinar, it emerged that the systematic trade union work with young people has allowed organisations to respond to young teachers’ needs. Whilst  some education trade unions had experienced that the COVID-19 crisis has attracted new members to join in search of support, some trade unions also shared the challenges they faced with young people tending to follow a more individualistic approach, finding a union approach not attractive, outdated and not adapted to their needs. The participants found it important to focus on recruiting and retaining young members and students via tailored projects; as well as including them in the trade unions’ actions and in the decision-making bodies.

For more information on the workshop:

Agenda: ENFRRU.

Background document: ENFRRU.