Socialist Worker

Life is tough for the young

by Fiona McPhail
Issue No. 2174

There are now more than a million young people out of work – and the worst of the recession is still to come.

And as youth unemployment soars, those of us who do find work are being forced into incredibly precarious jobs.

Young people, alongside women and migrant workers, are pushed into places like call centres, restaurants and bars.

We suffer management bullying, unfair dismissals and low pay as a matter of routine, and these workplaces are rarely unionised.

A friend of mine works in a call centre where one worker set up a blog that was a bit critical of the company.

Bosses warned the whole workforce that if they ever badmouthed the company in public, they’d be sacked.

Another of my friends is a newly-qualified teacher. She hasn’t been able to find any full-time work, so she’s been forced to take whatever bits and pieces she can.

And she is frustrated that Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS, refuses to support her – because she doesn’t have full employment rights.

She’s not the only one. As the union says, “the rate of unemployment among new teachers has risen dramatically, and the quality of employment for those who do find work has deteriorated”.


Meanwhile, instead of helping unemployed young people, the government attacks them.

Its new “Flexible New Deal” gives people one year to find a job before making them work for their benefits.

The government is even saying that it is acceptable for employers to exploit young people and the most vulnerable by paying benefit claimants less than the minimum wage.

I work in some of the most deprived areas of western Scotland, where these new “Training to Work” programmes are being pushed hard.

I’ve heard many stories of young people starting their first job through the programme, getting their benefits and expenses – but then being forced to sign on again once the programme finishes.

It’s as if they want to remind us that dreams never last.

So what should we do about it?

The young people of France can teach us a lesson or two. Three years ago they faced a law that would have let bosses fire any worker under the age of 26 instantly, for any reason – or no reason at all.

But students and workers organised mass protests that took on the government – and they won.

We can do the same, through rank and file organising, to put pressure on the unions, and with campaigns like Fight for the Right to Work.

We can fight alongside all those who are facing the sack, or unbearable working conditions – for students and families, for migrant workers, and many more.

Working class people are in the firing line after the Labour and Tory party conferences. Both parties are determined to force ordinary people to pay for the economic crisis by making savage cuts to public services.

Some say that the recession is nearly over, but that’s nothing but wishful thinking. We will be feeling its effects for a long time to come.

And as the crisis deepens, the situation for young workers is likely to get even worse – unless we can put up some resistance.

The best solution to unemployment is to build a strong, united working class movement.

That’s why the need for the working class to organise and fight back is greater now than ever.

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Article information

Tue 20 Oct 2009, 19:31 BST
Issue No. 2174
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