Young leaders

From 13 to 16 June 2019 took place in Lublin / Poland the first part of the training for young trade union leaders “Young leaders”, organized by Europejski Dom Spotkań – Fundacja Nowy Staw, with the support of EZA and of the European Union. The training was attended by 19 participants from Poland, France and Portugal.

The most important aspects of the meeting were discussions concerning the topics connected with the basic competences of trade union leaders, their awareness and motivation for further development. Leaders also discussed various trade union management models, global and regional trade union capabilities, patterns and methods of gaining new members and ways to motivate them. Additionally, young leaders also tackled the issue of trade union ethics and trade union leaders. Another significant aspect was the search for trade union identity, the presentation of the origins and the historical background of current trade unions. The basic values of workers’ organisations in the participant countries, their particular values, founders and activities were also presented. The training for young leaders was also enriched with a study visit to the office of the Central-Eastern Region branch of NSZZ „Solidarność” in Lublin. During the meeting with the Chairman of the Management Board of the Region, Marian Król, and the Member of the Presidium, Wiesławą Stec, young leaders had the opportunity to see how the aforementioned values function in reality.

The training was crucial for young trade union leaders because it gave them many opportunities to share their experiences, practices and management ideas. As a young generation, the participants acquired basic and necessary competences that every young trade union leader should possess. In addition, young leaders discussed problems of trade unions from the past and shared the issues that workers’ organisations are facing currently. The participants also tried to predict and anticipate potential problems of the future and questions about the leader’s position in the trade union, the leader’s activities and what kind of features are desired in the professional leader were answered. The participants also acquired essential knowledge from the history and stories connected with the foundation and development of different European trade unions.

The main topics were aspects of culture, history of trade unions and their activities. In addition, the participants actively participated in discussions on the role and place of leaders of workers’ organisations and what leaders should be. They also referred to the origins of the first trade union leaders such as Gaston Tessier and the knowledge that the young contemporary leaders can acquire from the actions and experiences of their predecessors. Afterwards, the participants discussed the significance, aims and causes behind the development of trade unions in different European countries. Subsequently, the participants discussed the reasons and motivations behind becoming the trade union leader, the importance of trade unions in a global and regional context and how the importance of trade unions differ in between countries, and finally what is ethics and what kind position does it take in a trade union.


The first outcome is undoubtedly the establishment of common features by the participants, which should characterize trade union leaders; namely, they should be persons who care about the welfare of workers and refer to the fundamental values of the trade union of which he is a leader. A true leader should enjoy the trust of the team, adhere to the same views and goals that he and the team strive for.

The second result is the answer to the question: how do leaders actually work? The participants identified two major skills for a good trade union leader: planning and using all the circumstances in order to achieve the desired goal. They also stated that a good leader can anticipate a potential problem and should be able to use all the opportunities known to him to solve it as soon as possible.

The third outcome is the opportunity to draw inspiration from experiences and stories shared with each other during presenting the causes for trade union formation in European countries. The participants also pointed out that the problems connected with employees’ issues have their own cultural, historical and traditional background going back all the way to the Middle Ages and people have been trying to solve those problems ever since. Moreover, trade unions have the same values and goals, such as brotherhood, freedom, pride, traditions and solidarity. In every country employees’ issues are linked to repression and strikes.

The fourth result is the statement that the identity gives a motivation to form a trade union and thus the right to representation, freedom of speech, freedom of association, professional development and the will to fight discrimination. The participants also identified the problems that young trade union leaders have to face in coming years, including the lack of people willing to join trade unions. Different forms and ways of dealing with this problem were presented.

The most important benefits resulting from the participation in this training is getting familiar with the issues related to the position of the trade union leaders, skills that should be possessed and familiarizing with the basic values that leaders should have. Mutual education and a return to the origins and history of trade union formation will allow the trade unions representatives to effectively counteract or prevent the deterioration of the employees’ situation in the future.

The knowledge and leadership skills were possible to develop thanks to methods introduced by trainers, such as short lectures combined with practical exercises in small groups, role plays that showed how it feels to be a leader and a member of a union, individual self-reflective tasks, study visit with the session of questions and conclusions. The training course had a practical dimension enabling acquiring new skills in the atmosphere of mutual integration of representatives of 3 countries.

The aim of the whole course and the first course which took place in Lublin that was also a part of the European project, was to support and give young leaders the opportunity to develop leadership skills of young European leaders of the trade unions. Good preparation of young leaders to perform the leadership role in the trade union has a big impact on the role of trade unions in Europe, especially having good young leaders who can – by their attitude and leadership skills – motivate other young people to join the trade unions in their countries. The meeting in Lublin gave people the opportunity to compare the history and current situation of trade union in different countries, discuss the problems and challenges that they are facing nowadays and they tried to find solutions together. The training course will have its continuation in the future (next 3 courses), so it will enable the participants to get more knowledge and skills. They can also share it with their colleagues in the native trade unions and become also the trainers and mentors for them. Their activity will also strengthen the role of trade union and their social image on the national level.