Why Belfast is Important

Our National Youth Education Event kicks off in Belfast on Friday. This is our 11th year and I think it is worth remembering just why it is so important to us.

The NYEE, as it is known, brings together dozens of young CWU activists for a weekend that is designed to inform and engage and enthuse.

Each year about two-thirds of those who attend have never been to any CWU event ever before. For them it really is a case of us not having a second chance to make a first impression.

The mix of people is tremendously important. This year we have reps from more companies attending, we have more women attending, we have people from every region of the union attending.

And one of the great strengths of the event is that people from this broad spectrum realise and draw strength from the fact that they are not alone. That the problems a call centre worker for Concentrix has may well not be so different in many ways to someone on deliveries in Parcelforce.

The content of the weekend is a mixture between the theoretical and practical, the industrial and political, the very serious and the downright fun. We give people access to the lead negotiators in the industrial sectors in which they work. We also try and put the union in its political context – why we campaign, what we complain about, how we campaign.

And we also demystify union jargon and bureaucracy so young people can go back to their branches and make a more effective contribution to make sure the union responds better to their concerns and needs

So it is important because it builds solidarity and experience amongst the CWU’s young members.

It is also important because of the backing it gets from the senior leadership of the union. Year-on-year, the General Secretary, Senior Deputy General Secretary and Deputy General Secretaries make a point of coming to the NYEE, frequently joined (as they are this year) by other national officers and lay representatives up to and including the president. This is an indicator of the value that is attached to developing young activists at all levels of the union and is important because young activists see in very real and direct terms that attention is being paid to them and their issues.

And it is also an opportunity for the union to reach out and build and strengthen links with our partners and friends in the wider Labour movement. So this year we have representatives from Hope not Hate, Defend the Right to Protest, the Trades Union Congress and (especially because we are in Northern Ireland) Trademark Belfast to share their experiences and offer their ideas on the leading challenges facing our members both at work and in their communities.

And we are delighted to welcome as our guests representatives from sister unions within the UK and also CWU (Ireland) so that they can add to our discussions and we can show physically what we mean by investing in young activists.

We live in a challenging and difficult world. So much of government policy is leading Britain to the 1850s and we have sectional interests being placed high above national interests. Listening does not seem to be a skill readily acquired or demonstrated by those in power. So this means we must be louder, we must be clearer, we must be more daring and more determined.

The National Youth Education Event is all about generating the belief and confidence, for participants of all ages, that this is possible. You’ll be able to follow how we are doing in real-time on twitter @cwuyouth, and a full report will be posted on www.cwuyouth.org. Watch this space!