“Give young people a stronger voice”
3 minutes with Kendal Bromley, student nurse and chair of UNISON national young members’ forum.
Kendal was invited to speak at #BalanceForBetter, UNISON Cymru Wales’ partnership event to mark International Women’s Day. We caught up with Kendal to find out what she thinks is holding back young workers.
Why did you join UNISON Kendal?
I joined UNISON 4 yrs ago because I was being bullied at work and I saw the protection union membership offered. I quickly became active, all by chance. My branch secretary asked me if I wanted to go along to a young members’ event in Nottingham. I found it really exciting. I found myself elected Vice Chair in my first meeting!
What’s working life like for young people?
For me, young workers are stuck in jobs because there’s no meaningful training, development or career pathways. This is particularly the case in local government but the same across the public sector.
There are more young people working on zero hours contracts, many find themselves in insecure work where full-time hours and a real living wage are out of reach. Without guaranteed hours or earnings they might have to work two jobs which means long working days and no social life.
That’s why UNISON Cymru Wales’ campaigning #RespectYourYouth charter is so important. The 5 key demands outlined in the charter will make a real difference to young people’s lives.
You were speaking at an International Women’s Day event for UNISON Cymru Wales, are there even more challenges for young women?
Young female workers are exposed to sexual harassment — unwelcome inappropriate jokes or unwanted physical contact. There is a lot of undetected bullying and being belittled just because they are women. I’ve lost count of the number of times, I have been asked at work to make the tea. If you are in precarious work, you may not feel able to challenge this behaviour, or even be aware that you can challenge it.
Society has ‘norms’ that young people (particularly young workers) are expected to conform to. Some say inequality doesn’t exist but women are still told what they can and can’t do. We need to be ever watchful and challenge inequalities or prejudice against young women where we can — that’s where trade unions come in!
I was able to implement a young women’s caucus at UNISON’s national women’s conference and have made young women a key priority of the national women’s work plan for the past two years. I have taken the Cymru Wales #RespectYourYouth charter and helped to implement it in the South West.
Are there any things holding young people back from getting more active in the union?
There are some barriers for young people who lack the experience of seeing how the union works. As a young female in particular, you might not want to go on your own often in the evening to branch meetings.
Young members of UNISON appreciate we are standing on the shoulders of those trade union activists who came before us. There is huge potential out there for UNISON to engage with young workers. Now we need existing activists to let us develop within the union and help empower us. My message to all UNISON members of any age: young people can do any role they like!
Kendal is chair of UNISON South West region’s young members and national young members. She also sits on the national women’s committee.