Rachael's First Diary Entry – 15 Feb

15 Feb

Since this is my first blog post let me introduce myself and my reasons for hijacking unitescotlands’ webpage! So get your tea and biscuits ready and I’ll tell you a little about myself.  My name is Rachael and I am currently studying Criminology at Glasgow Caledonian University.   For the last 3 years I have been studying not only why some individuals choose to commit crime and what constitutes as criminal act, but to be critical of the social world around me.  I am undertaking an assessed module towards my final degree called Community Links.  The aim of this module is for students to engage with community based organisations and undertake research on issues that have arisen with the chosen organisation.

I may hear you all cry ‘what’s that got to do with trade unionism’ and to be honest I found myself asking the same thing. When I was choosing my organisation I decided that I would gain more from studying a topic that I had personal experience of, so I decided to call upon my own experiences in the workplace to give me a starting point.

Instead of going to university straight after school I decided to work full-time and develop my skills in working with the public.  Although I have gained invaluable experience, I began to detest the working conditions faced by fashion retail workers.  I wish I could say all of my experiences in my 10 year education gap were positive, some of them were but the majority of my experiences were that some fashion retail managers use their position of trust to manipulate and bully those below them. I have been on the receiving end of bad working practices and have on more than one occasion witnessed bullying in the workplace and also been a victim of the same cruelty.

These experiences were very hurtful and in hindsight I am very ashamed and embarrassed that I did not stand up for myself and those I witnessed.  These experiences have made me think about the importance of trade union support in the workplace in supporting workers to be free of manipulation and bad practice. But why does this continue? It’s a sad state of affairs, but I would not recommend the fashion retail environment as a place for workers to gain confidence, as my experiences have illustrated to me that the retail sector is oppressive and detrimental to the future of younger workers, particularly to those who have never worked before and have no knowledge of their rights in the workplace.

My research process started with some brainstorming and after much discussion it was agreed that I should look into the issue of youth unemployment in Scotland. Whilst I was undertaking some background reading, I had found that youth unemployment as stated by the Citizens Advice recent report in 2011, ‘Being Young and being heard’ that East Ayrshire, my current residence holds one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in Scotland (15%). The rates of unemployment in this age category in Scotland shocked me, I did not realize the true state of affairs and am very keen to find out what is contributing to these high figures.

This began to dictate that my brief would be focused on understanding how Unite can engage more effectively with young people aged 16-24, who are unemployed and not already affiliated with a trade union. This will help to identify why this age category is low in membership but also what Unite can do to support those in this age category who are without work. This research will also address the Community Membership Programme (which offers reduced membership rates and support to those who are unemployed) and if it is a successful scheme, and furthermore how to maintain the impetus of this programme to ensure that it remains high on the Unite agenda.

I will be blogging on my findings and highlighting and further issues that have inspired debate in my mind.  If anything I mention makes you feel strongly, get your opinions posted! I’m really keen for those reading my blog to engage with me and give me their thoughts and we can use this page to spark some debate and get our voices heard.

You can contact me on: rmacle47@caledonian.ac.uk




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