Delegates to the annual Youth Conference of the Scottish Trades Union Congress have put the struggle against work-caused mental illness at the top of its agenda for the year.
A series of motions focused on the impact that work is having on the mental health of young workers, and speakers drew parallels between physical injury at work and the impact of work on mental illness, and supporting moves to build the power of workers to challenge unhealthy working conditions.
Anthea Koon, STUC Youth Committee Chair and member of Unite the Union, said:
‘Young workers are urgently asking the question, how is our mental health being damaged short-term and long-term because of work?
‘When we take on these issues, there is stigma, there is denial, and people are even being sacked for bringing their employer into disrepute when they talk about work-related mental illness. But numerous cases of stress-related strokes, chronic anxiety and even suicide are caused and exacerbated by working conditions.
‘Historically our movement ensured that conditions that caused physical harm were eradicated in factories, fields and mines.
‘Today we are building workers’ power to challenge the isolation, insecurity, and exploitation especially in sectors like hospitality, care, distribution and other services that lead to similar harms.’
Jackson Cullinane, Political Secretary of Unite Scotland and STUC President, said:
‘On the industrial front, it should be obvious that although the causes of mental health are varied, there are things happening at work that are contributory factors to what is becoming a crisis.
‘There are people in precarious work who are going to work uncertain about their future, being asked to achieve targets that are unachievable, and facing a lack of workplace democracy.
‘For the large chunk of daily hours spent at work, there is no democracy. Someone else tells you what to do, when to do it, how to do it. And voices are disregarded and sometimes absolutely stamped on, unless they have a collective trade union voice.
‘So the issue of mental health relates directly to the need to build a collective voice at work.
‘This is not simply about raising awareness and looking to build mental health services, but how we can make a new demand of the Scottish Government through the Fair Work agenda to ensure that all workers have a union voice to challenge the causes of mental ill health.’
The 79th annual STUC Youth Conference is taking place at the Golden Jubilee Conference Centre in Clydebank this weekend. It is attended by young delegates from across the trade union movement.
Conference heard that:
· Only 37% of young people said they’d tell someone if they were finding it difficult to cope with mental health.
· One in seven young men aged between 16 and 24 experience depression or anxiety each year.
· 59% of people experience stress due to work.
· 12.7% of sick leave can be attributed to mental health issues
At a workshop to formulate demands around mental health, delegates identified a set of priorities including:
Safe and secure working environments Resisting under-staffing Zero tolerance of unsafe working conditions Investment in occupational health and mental health first-aid Training to spot and refer people onto services
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