Trade Union Movement Looks To Support Young Workers

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has announced that it plans to do more to recruit, train and support young workers over the coming year. The move comes as recent figures show that nearly 90% of under 30s on low to median incomes work in the private sector — but just 6.3% of them are in trade unions.

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Back in 1891 the Catholic Church acknowledged the essential role of Trade Unions as the only reliable way to protect the rights, safety, and well-being of workers and their families. Pope Leo XIII used his encyclical Rerum novarum to depict the plight of the urban poor and condemn unrestricted capitalism. Chief among the remedies it prescribed were the formation of trade unions and the introduction of collective bargaining.

Unions would go on to successfully lobby for the creation of a five-day work week, eight-hour work day, pensions and benefits for families, living wages for workers, and safe working conditions.

Trade Unionism was also a driving force in the creation of the YCW. Our founder, Joseph Cardijn, originally called the growing movement in Belgium the “Young Trade Unionists” and it was the plight of workers that drew Cardijn to his lifelong mission of fighting for justice and the empowerment of young workers.

Therefore, we are looking forward to supporting the TUC’s efforts to engage with young workers across the country. Already they have took time to explore the issues and found that young workers are more likely to be employed in industries that have seen huge increases in casualised work over the last decade. Retail, hospitality and social care employ large numbers of young workers.

In addition, zero hours, temporary contracts, agency work, all mean it’s getting harder and harder to balance your working life with your personal life. That’s doubly the case for young parents, trying to balance unpredictable shifts with costly and inflexible childcare. Low pay makes it hard to get by and plan for the future.

National Training and Development Worker, Marc Besford, commented on this saying: “There are so many common causes that the YCW and the TUC have been working on and I look forward to seeing how we can support each other over the coming months. We have already began greater collaboration with our colleagues at St Antony’s Centre for Church and Industry and we will be engaging with out young leaders to see how they want to get involved.”

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New Oldham YCW Group Supports Women's Refuge At Christmas

At the end of last year it was reported that the Oldham YCW Group had been working through the SEE - JUDGE - ACT Method and the young leaders decided that they would help their local Women’s Refuge - a place where women and their children can take refuge when they are suffering from domestic violence and abuse.

These refuges are vital lifelines for many women and in the run-up to Christmas many victims have to spend time away from family and friends in order to stay safe.

The refuge in Oldham has 22 women and 24 children. The Group were aware that the refuge did not have very much and so it was an opportunity to make a meaningful donation of things which they need and maybe a few treats as well.

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The young leaders had a meeting and came up with ideas as to how best they could help the families in need at Christmastime, aware of the fact that there would be restrictions as there are many regulations in place to ensure the safety of the women and children.

In the end they decided to fill stockings and gift bags full of goodies for the women and children in need. With girls and boys aged from 6 months-16 years they had to cater to a wide range of people. With support from their parishioners, donations were made of women’s toiletries and underwear, socks, gloves and scarves for the winter months, toys and games for the kids, and loads of chocolate.

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One of the young leaders, Max, reflected on the initiative saying: “A few of our members went along to the refuge before Christmas and gave our donations to them. They were all very grateful. It was fantastic to be able to develop our leadership and organisational skills over the weeks and months we’ve been planning this. We are all looking forward to doing more in the near future.”

Billingham YCW Developing Leadership Through Service

In the run-up to Christmas, Billingham YCW Group decided to use this time of Advent reflection to think on those who go without over the holidays. In response, they wanted to continue their support for the local Billingham and Stockton Borough foodbank.

The foodbank, which has been open since 2012, supplied 6347 3-day emergency food parcels last year and have to grapple with increasing demand on their generosity. In fact, it has been reported that many of the people who need foodbanks are actually in work, but they still struggle to afford enough food to feed themselves and their families.

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In response, the Group used £150 of their funds to buy specific items that the foodbank was most in need of and visited the centre to drop off the supplies in person. They wanted to more fully understand the reality of what the foodbanks actually do, including the range of services around just the supply of food parcels. Some of this work includes a job club, advice on Universal Credit and cooking courses.

Ben Sinclair, member of the Billingham YCW Group and current National Secretary, said: "It is really important that we develop our Christian leadership by being able to serve the poorest and most vulnerable. The Group have more plans in the near future to raise some more money, which we can then use to help even more."

YCW Review Of The Year

Over the past year the YCW has continued with its mission to train young leaders; serving, educating and representing other young people in their places of work or study and in their local communities by living out the Gospel through their actions.

We have had a busy year visiting and training groups all over the country, especially in our target regions of the North West and North East. We have especially been impressed with the number of new groups being formed and developed alongside our existing groups both of which are doing impressive work such as: refugee sponsorship, foodbank appeals, mental health awareness, supporting homelessness services and tackling environmental issues.


At National Council in April, we were sad to see Becca Henderson, long serving National Secretary, leave the National Team and we thank her for her service. In place of Becca we welcomed Ben Sinclair as National Secretary and in addition to this, Sean Smith has undertaken the role of National Treasurer. We hope you keep them all in your prayers.

A key part of our growing number of groups has been the identification and training of adult companions and chaplains to accompany the new groups emerging. We have held over the year a number of training events for our adult companions and chaplains these involved talks on youth loneliness and sharing good practices by introducing new adult companions and chaplains to more experienced ones.

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We have continued to further develop training of young people by establishing a leadership programme called “Be the Difference!”.  The purpose of this programme is to give young people a definitive pathway to becoming a YCW leader. The programme is designed to help young people develop leadership qualities and skills through a programme of 12 units, each with 3 stages. The National Team will arrange for a Recognition Ceremony, either locally or regionally, for groups of new leaders. But more about this award in the New Year!

The HQ has hosted several NEC and Trustee meetings over the year, allowing the National Team the time to plan and prepare the activities of the year and discuss the future vision of the YCW and IMPACT! in England and Wales. We have also hosted a number of existing and new groups at HQ and will look to continue bringing young people together from different areas in order to continue the solidarity of the YCW and IMPACT! in our country.

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During the course of the year our focus has been on our National Campaign called MIND! The Gap. We are now within the ACT stage of the Method and having analysed the responses to our online survey are working up a variety of actions for the movement to lead on. In particular, we feel that increasingly mental health is closely linked to the whole question of the environment and communities we inhabit, a point that Pope Francis repeatedly makes in “Laudato Si”. Therefore, out of this project, one of the things we are exploring is a practical scheme to transform the garden which surrounds our HQ into a place of relaxation, peace and community for the workers, parishioners, young people in the area and all YCW members.

Throughout the year we have continued our close involvement with other projects and organisations across England and Wales and within the Diocese of Salford, where our HQ is situated. The YCW remains a member of the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation (CYMFed) and have attended its meetings. We continue our links with St Antony’s Centre by participating in conferences on the world of work, such as the European Group for Workers’ Pastoral Care (GEPO) focusing on the “Social Europe, Workers’ Movements and Social Dialogue - A Common Vision for the European Social Foundation.”


We have also worked alongside the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) and the Centre for Catholic Social Thought and Practice to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Trade Union Congress, which focused on the theme “Working for a Better Future”. We also participated in Liturgies held within St Antony’s Church, including: Remembrance Sunday, Lenten Masses and Christmas Carol Services. A highlight of this year was the Adoramus conference held in Liverpool in which our National President, Kate Wilkinson, was part of the planning committee for the youth conference that took place within the main conference.

We are also partnered with the charity called ‘Million Minutes’ to sponsor an award named in honour of our founder, Joseph Cardijn. We've had several groups and members win recognition for their wonderful work and are very proud to see them achieve such success.

We still remain a member of the ICYCW and coordinating Movement for the European Commission and in which we have represented the International and European Team at meetings held in Rome mainly for the 1st General Coordination Meeting (GCM) of the ICYCW and also at a conference at the Vatican on “Laudato Si” where our Training & Development Worker personally met Pope Francis.

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Following on from last year’s successful 80th year celebration we are further developing our links with past members with a group involved looking at ways we can really engage with people and also our new monthly newsletter has helped engage with former members. We are sad to hear that the Cardijn Association will no longer be running we thank them for their prayers and generous donations. We also would like to thank the MCW with their continued support.

We hope that you will continue to pray for the Movement as we enter 2019 a year in which the Trade Union Congress has dedicated to young people. We hope that the young people continue their great work and also our adult companions and chaplains keep supporting them through their faith journey as Cardijn once said “everything by the young people but nothing without the chaplain”.

A Christmas Message From The YCW National Team

As we draw towards the end of 2018 we look back upon all that we have achieved. As a Movement we can be content in the knowledge that more young people across England and Wales are growing in Christian leadership and 'being the difference' in their homes, places of work and local communities.

However we must also recognise that this year has been a difficult time for many. Young workers across the country are still faced with hardship due to unemployment, low pay and precarious working conditions. Further afield from home we see worrying evidence of political unrest and war where the Christian values of love, peace and the common good are ignored in place of ideology, power and greed.

However, the season of Christmas provides us with an opportunity to dispel some of this darkness by focusing our hearts and minds upon the hope that the birth of the Prince of Peace delivers. Pope Francis in his Christmas Day message of 2014 reminded us;

"Where God is born, hope is born. He brings hope. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer  room for hatred and for war."

We pray that in this season of Christmas the birth of the Christ child will enlighten our hearts so that we may all better live out His call to be missionary disciples to one another.

The YCW National Team wish you a very happy and holy Christmas.

The headquarters of the YCW will close on Friday 21st December and will reopen on Wednesday 2nd January 2019.


NEC Hosts Former Members For Christmas Reception

The YCW has held a Christmas reception for former member to thank them for their service to the movement and celebrate another successful year across England and Wales.

National President, Kate Wilkinson, said: “It was a wonderful opportunity to meet up with current and former members and I was grateful to be able to thank them for all they do. We have incredibly strong bonds from over the years and across the country, so we hope to continue to build upon this going forward.”

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It followed a meeting of the NEC that looked at how we can start to ACT on a national scale, in response to the National Campaign on mental health and young people called MIND! The Gap. One of these actions will be to lobby for all schools to have comprehensive mental health policies and train staff in how they can best support young people around this topic.

In addition, we have also made plans to gather support locally for the Garden Project at the HQ and will start to progress this scheme over the next 12 months.

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National Council 2019 was also discussed and invitations will be sent out in early January to all groups and members with full information about this important event.