What I owe the CWU and why if you’re a young worker, it’s vital that you’re a member of a trade union


What I owe my union isn’t something I have ever attempted to put into words before; I’ve worked for my employer in a stable job for ten years now, I’ve been able to raise two children in comfort and build a home for them. I’ve enjoyed the benefit of being pushed to better myself and worked with and for some amazing people. but my early career… wasn’t so stable. Like a lot of 16-year olds who first enter the world of work, I got myself into a lot of trouble! Not that anyone would have suspected from the first month or so of my employment, I mashed all my training courses and it became clear that I was probably better suited to being an engineering apprentice; the manual side of engineering I took to like a duck to water. But it wasn’t long before I started to struggle with the academic side of being an apprentice.

To my fellow apprentices our written assessments were just a bit of paper: to me, they were mountains I had to try and climb without oxygen. My dyslexia was starting to get the better of me and it wasn’t long before depression and anxiety took hold. After months of struggling alone I finally spoke up about what was wrong to one of my superiors and I was succinctly told to “shape up, or ship out”. This wasn’t exactly the confidence boost I needed to get me back on track and I continued to sink deeper into depression for the next year getting myself into yet more trouble. This began to take its toll on my personal relationships with my friends, girlfriend and family and finally came to a head in October 2010 when I tried to take my own life. Thankfully I failed, but everything that I had hidden away was now in the open, my family knew how much trouble I was in and I couldn’t hide from the fact that I needed help.

Thankfully I had a lot of people who helped pick me up; one of them was a certain CWU rep who would go on to train me to be a rep 6 years later. I made a lot of mistakes in those early years, but my union made sure that I was given a second chance to succeed that so few young people are given today. A lot has changed since then, employment is less secure and mental heath problems are set to become the great plague of the twenty-first century; now more than ever young people need more support as they enter the world of work. Trade unions offer a support network like no other and offer the only real opportunity for young people to change their work place for the better. Now more than ever, young voices need to be heard in the work place. We face the prospect of work without end, life with no chance of owning a home or having a secure job and this can only be changed by young people who stand up for real change!

I was lucky to be supported by great friends, family and a great trade union. Reach out to your union today if you are struggling; we are here and ready to support you through the bad times and to help you build your own better future.


Useful Links:

British Dyslexia Association: www.bdadyslexia.org.uk

Dyslexia symptoms (source: NHS):  www.nhs.uk/conditions/dyslexia/symptoms/