Why is the youth reluctant to join the trade unions?

The youth bear a heavy burden in their endeavors to manage a variety of interests.

During apartheid they had to adapt global experience in social dialogue to local circumstances when labour movements were formed.

It is exactly for this reason that the trade unions have grown over the years.
The growing understanding among the youth with regard to trade unions is the key to democratic South Africa’s founding principles: an openness to talk and share brand new ideas with each other, work together to solve new and old problems of our country. These principles are key to the further involvement of the youth in their governance.

Youth need to monitor the implementation of various policies that the government and labour movements have committed themselves to.
Importantly, we have to galvanize the youth to join trade unions. We have to find innovative ways to attract and retain the skills that are critical to achieve our objectives. We have to fight the high rate of unemployment.

Recently government published the Industrial Policy Action Plan, the New Growth Path and now Trevor Manuel’s National Planning Diagnostic Report- later endorsed by the Mangaung conference as the NDP documents – as well as the youth wage subsidy.

A common thread running through these texts is South Africa’s unemployment crisis and strategies to create jobs.

The youth must take the lead in ensuring that the ravages of apartheid on workers are addressed. They must use the skills that they have acquired from various institutions of higher learning. This will help to rebuild and grow the South African economy and influence our own ANC policies.

We must ensure that the commitment we show in reaching our decisions in political debates towards our national congresses – ANC, COSATU, SACP and NUMSA in 2015 and 2016 – is matched by the commitment we show during the implementation of such decisions.

To achieve this we need to strengthen our campaigns and planning to ensure that the various initiatives that we undertake complement one another. We dare not fail.

We need a youth desk at the level of COSATU. Its function will be to interact with all the youth formations from the tertiary institutions. It will teach the youth about the importance of joining a trade union without creating a hidden factionalist agenda.

If we are to sustain and uphold the struggle for socialism going forward, we need to check all the things that appeal to the youth. The twin tasks of the youth remain that of mobilising the youth behind the idea of socialism and the SACP’s vision as well as championing their interests within the movement and in society.

Since the re-establishment of the YCL, we have also unearthed a lot of Communist talents who are also educating themselves through struggles and challenges that are facing the working class.

However, as a NUMSA organizer, I find it very disturbing to visit an establishment where the majority of workers are young, very energetic and still fresh from school, yet politically naïve.

One first has to explain what is COSATU and its relationship to NUMSA because some of them are too skeptical to join the unions. One begins to ask oneself ‘where is the struggle at school and tertiary institutions?’

It means that COSAS, SASCO, YCL are not mobilizing towards socialism anda working class agenda. The youth should be able to know the kind of struggle they are involved in at any point in the struggle.

During my time and involvement in the progressive youth movements at school, I used to say that “student wars are labour wars’’. Our task is to prevent the present generation, torn asunder by its conflicts, from becoming perverted and from perverting the new generation.

We must not bring into being docile servants who live at the expense of the state practicing ‘’freedom.’’ Already there are revolutionaries coming who will sing the song of the new man in the true voice of the people. This is a process which takes time.

New generation
A new generation is being born ’1994 born frees’. We must make sure that we tell this new generation the honest truth about their country and its revolutionaries.

That the leaders of the revolution had children who have not learned to call their fathers by names; that they had wives from whom they had to be separated to bring the revolution to its fulfillment; that their circle of friends was limited strictly to the number of fellow revolutionaries. There was no life outside the revolution.

Forward with the high political discipline and understanding by the 1994 born frees forward!

Thembile Livi is Numsa-YF Ekurhuleni regional coordinator