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Young Workers Month: Achieving things here and now

By Lizzie Houghton
Youth bore the brunt of the 2008 financial crash. It is a fact worth repeating this Young Workers’ Month because, a decade later, it is still true.

During the credit crunch, youth unemployment rose at twice the average rate. In 2018, we have seen graduate starting salaries remain unchanged for the past four years. Fast Stream salaries continue to be below the average.

Pay gaps between younger and older workers have widened, and according to TUC research this means that one in five young workers – and 27% of young workers who are parents – have skipped a main meal in the last year because of a shortage of money.

Inequalities compound inequalities. Black graduates have a lower rate of high skilled employment, higher unemployment rates, and lower median salaries than white and Asian graduates. ONS data showed that, despite their degrees, only 37% were in graduate jobs in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Sutton Trust found in 2014 that the starting salaries of Oxford and Cambridge graduates were around 42% higher than graduates of new universities, and that graduates at other selective institutions were likely to start on £3,000 per annum more than those at less selective universities.

The fight for equal pay for equal work must be intersectional, or it will be nothing.

It can be tempting in challenging times to bunker down, shut off from the struggle and opt not to “get involved”. You might expect to see young civil servants avoid unions, but we are very pleased to say that this has not been the case. Over the past year, the number of fast streamers joining the FDA has risen by 55%, making us the fastest growing Section of the union.

Most of these new joiners were under the age of 35, meaning we are also the youngest section.

Young workers are often called "the future of the union movement". That is true in a sense, but it overlooks the fact that we are also the current activists of the movement, achieving things here and now. The FDA Fast Stream Section has already achieved solid wins for all fast streamers.

In 2015 we fought for and won the mid-scheme uplift, so your pay better reflects the work you do. This year, following our campaigning, we have had a commitment from the Cabinet Office to undertake a fully negotiated review of Fast Stream pay.

In the last six months we’ve held three Town Hall events, which led to us developing policies and positions informed by our members.

Over the next six months we will be working towards: 

  • a review of Fast Stream pay, so your work is properly rewarded;
  • increased Specialist scheme representation, so we properly represent the whole Fast Stream;
  • a diversity declaration drive, so we have the data to argue for fair treatment for all fast streamers.

We want to make sure future fast streamers feel more secure, knowing there is a strong, collective voice backing them up on issues, whether they effect a whole cohort or one individual.

Our members amplify our voice. If you haven’t joined the union yet, please do. If you are a member, consider becoming an FDA Fast Stream workplace rep, supporting fellow fast streamers across the various schemes. For more information email National Officer Steven Littlewood at steven@fda.org.uk.

Together, we can all act to ensure our work is fairer and less uncertain for the next generation of young workers.

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