Luis Castro is a member of Local 62 and works at the Hotel Intercontinental in Montreal. He talks to us about retirement security and the reasons why young people should get involved in collective bargaining.
What is the main issue facing young workers?
In my sector, there were quite a few layoffs due to the pandemic, so of course access to good jobs is a very important issue. People want stable, well-paid jobs and they want to be recognized for their skills.
I’ve noticed that young people are increasingly concerned about security in retirement. I know that may seem a bit surprising, but I think the current climate of instability has forced people to give more thought to the future.
A lot of young people are starting families and are more and more interested in the issue of pension funds. They want to put money aside for the future.
In addition to these issues, work-life balance is a big priority and achieving it can be very complicated. Workers are asked to spend a lot of time at work, to be present. Negotiating work-family balance is very important for young people – especially young families. You don’t want to have to work all the time, with no time for your personal life.
What can the union do to make progress on this issue?
Issues concerning the future, such as retirement security, are not really learned in school. So union education, especially when it comes to pensions, is very important. The question of pension fund contributions is a complicated issue.
Employers can do whatever they want, so a basic knowledge of the issues can help workers understand the options affecting their future. One condition we can negotiate is to make employers put a portion of the employee’s salary in an account for the employee. The emphasis will be on ensuring their financial security in the future.
It’s crucial to talk about retirement. This is an issue that is increasingly important for workers. A few years ago, people were less aware. Now people are starting to realize that they have no financial cushion. It’s important that the union advocate for pension funds and negotiate higher amounts each time in order to ensure a secure future for its members.
What can young people themselves do to advance this issue?
You need to ask questions and gain an understanding of how pension plans work. There are no stupid questions. Don’t be embarrassed to say you don't know anything about the subject. We have to properly inform members. It’s your future that’s at stake, not mine.
They may not even be aware that there is a contact person available in their workplace. They don’t want to ask questions because they don’t want to appear ignorant. You have to encourage them. It’s okay to ask questions, to lack knowledge.
What helped you most during the pandemic?
Family support helped a lot. The safety of loved ones. This has been a time where we saw families supporting each other in a way that has never happened in our generation. The fact of having the support of those close to you made a big difference. A lot of people found themselves alone, and that can be difficult.