Wednesday, August 12 is International Youth Day, an opportunity to recognize the voices, actions and initiatives of young people. The theme for this year is: “Youth Engagement for Global Action,” highlighting how youth shape global politics.
OPSEU’s Young Workers Conference usually coincides with International Youth Day. It’s a chance for young workers to come together, express themselves freely and take part in activities and decision-making processes.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of this year’s conference.
“Although we are disappointed that we are not meeting together this year, we look forward to a bigger and better conference next year,” said Joseanne Job, Chair of the Provincial Young Workers Committee. “The annual conference is just one way to bring young workers together, however. With online technologies and a global pandemic taking centre stage, the world has never been more connected and in solidarity with young workers.”
Youth have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve lost jobs and have not been able to network in the traditional way to find new employment. Some aren’t able to return to school. With a huge delay in building their careers, young workers are at a critical point in their lives. This International Youth Day, let’s remember those who have been hardest hit by this pandemic and reflect on the importance of youth remaining in the workforce.
Young workers, who were facing challenges in the job market even before the pandemic, face the brunt of COVID-19 job losses in Canada. Contract and temporary work that they had before are now lost, leaving them to find jobs in a scarce and unstable job market.
The long-term effects are already apparent. The emergence of greater obstacles to finding work, re-entering the labour market, and trying to transition to better jobs are going to be difficult.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says it’s saddening to see the difficulties young workers face today, but they shouldn’t lose heart.
“I feel for our youth”, said Thomas. “But don’t let this crisis keep you down and out of the ring. It’s more important, now more than ever, to participate and stand up for young workers’ rights, affordable education, and to fight against youth unemployment and social injustice.”
First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says that before and during the pandemic, young workers have shown they’re not only the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today.
“Our youth and young workers have been instrumental in helping everyone come together and tackling COVID-19, and their commitment fills me with pride and optimism about the future.”
While many young people are volunteering to support at-risk populations, they are also utilizing social media to spread public health information in engaging ways such as explaining how social distancing can save lives or making videos to promote effective handwashing.
OPSEU’s Provincial Young Workers Committee (PYC) would like to thank all young workers for their continued effort and patience during the pandemic, adding that their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Young people’s voices matter and they can create change. Their actions are key to building a better workplace and community.