Young people are among the most vulnerable workers and will benefit from a renewed union push for better workplace protections, entitlements and representation.

This week’s ACTU Congress will endorse a new Young Workers’ Policy aimed at better representing an often forgotten group in the workforce, young workers.

The policy will be debated tomorrow at the inaugural ACTU Youth Congress in Sydney. The keynote speaker is Australian Workers’ Union National Secretary Paul Howes, who, at 30, is the youngest national leader in the Australian union movement.

The first-ever ACTU Youth Congress will explore new ways to improve the rights of young people in the workplace in order to overturn statistics showing they are more at risk of injury, more likely to be bullied and harassed and find it more difficult to exercise their workplace rights.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said unions were committed to giving a voice to young workers who were often left out of public debate about workplace issues.

She said young people were more prone to insecure work, as the industries that are considered attractive to young workers including hospitality and retail also experience the highest numbers of casual or non-permanent workers.

Ms Kearney said discussion at the Youth Congress would centre on the notion that unions had a responsibility to represent and organise the next generation of workers and union members.

“Without power to stand up for themselves, young workers will be vulnerable to exploitation and in some cases will be left behind, so it is a priority of Australian unions to ensure they are represented and their issues are voiced across the entire union movement,” Ms Kearney said.

“The extent of the difficulties young workers face is quite staggering.

“The media may paint young people’s lives as carefree and lazy, that they’re bludging off their parents, living at home rent free.  But for vast numbers of young people this couldn’t be further than the truth. They are prone to insecure work, to exploitation of their rights at work, and poorer policing of health and safety.

“On top of that, they are frequently seen as a cheap source of labour because of outdated junior wages. Young workers are hard workers and loyal, and they do not deserve to be treated as inferior workers.”

Ms Kearney said immediate priorities for unions were to reinstate minimum three hour shifts for retail workers, and eliminate junior rates for people aged over 18.

The Youth Congress will also be the culmination of the ACTU-OurSay Secure jobs for a better future forum, which has allowed people to engage directly online with the ACTU. Ms Kearney and a panel will answer the most popular questions posted on the online forum at

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