Discussing the way forward

17 March 2011

The annual young members? forum met for the fifth time over the weekend 4-6 February. Around 80 delegates were nominated by their branch or region and discussed key issues facing young members? and participated in workshops covering a range of topics.

This year it was held in Manchester, a city with a fine trade union tradition and history. Delegates kicked off the weekend on Friday night with a quiz and get to know your region session.

The following morning the main event opened. Outgoing Chair of the national young members’ committee (NYMC) Alan Warner opened by thanking the young members network for their efforts throughout the year, which culminated in a substantial influence on the TUC to organise a demonstration against youth unemployment in Manchester the previous week. He commented on our sizeable attendance at the Student Demonstrations at the end of last year.

A successful year

YM organiser Tracy Edwards presented the annual report. A video message from general secretary Mark Serwotka and a personal message of support from national president Janice Godrich were warmly received. Delegates were given the choice of attending a variety of workshops over the weekend.

Jane Ogungbemile, DWP Essex attended the session ‘building union strength and visibility’. She said: “I learnt a lot about things we can do locally in our offices to develop our strength as a union. Being visible does help build union strength. Representatives should always keep members informed and be knowledgeable. Increasing visibility using banners, posters, leaflets, up to date notice boards and union flags helps raise our profile.”

Lois Anderson from Scottish Government group went to the tax justice session: “The PCS argument is quite simple: we pay taxes and have no choice. Those not paying taxes should not be able to opt out of this. If the government invested in jobs in HMRC, instead of cutting, they would have resources to tackle lost revenue. Every HMRC tax collector raises at least £600,000 for the Treasury every year.”

Fight all cuts

National Vice President John McInally gave a rousing speech on the protests in Egypt and the struggle for democracy, which we now know has led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

A panel discussion on ‘How can we fight the cuts effectively?’ heard from RMT president Alex Gordon, Press officer for Leeds university against cuts Ian Pattison, PCS NEC member Marion Lloyd and Claire Laker-Mansfield from Youth fight for Jobs and generated a lively debate. Many ideas and tactics were discussed. The common theme was the sheer determination to keep going against the odds and that public opinion is swinging against the cuts the Government wants to make.

The forum heard Deputy General Secretary Hugh Lanning underline the importance of young members’ involvement in building for the TUC ‘March for the Alternative’ demonstration on March 26. He concluded by saying that politicians of all party colours will only listen to our case when we have a mass of popular opinion behind us and that this was starting to take shape.

In their regional delegations, young members’ discussed and agreed priorities and objectives for their networks for the year ahead. Regional action plans were completed and have been circulated to regional young members’ convenors for wider discussions amongst young members’.

Looking forward

Helen Flanagan was elected unopposed as chair alongside Debbie Mallet as vice chair and Steve Heyward as equalities officer. At the time of writing, elections for regional and area convenors are taking place.

The young members’ forum was a great success and highlighted how far we’ve come in developing an active, campaigning and inclusive youth section. Most delegates found the panel discussion the most interesting part of the event. For many, making new contacts and gaining a wider understanding of the network and our union made the event worthwhile.

All feedback will be collated and used to ensure we make the 2012 young members’ forum an even bigger success.
 

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