If I were to ask around many young people to find out what they think of Europe, the chances are they would tell me about holidays spent on sunnyMediterranean beaches or trips to continental music festivals. Until possibly just a few weeks ago, there is very little chance they would be discussing the benefits of being in a single market. But the upcoming EU vote has made many question what Europe is about, beyond the suntan and heady nights at Benicassim or Roskilde.
Much of the attention so far has centred on the fears and worries of both sides. The bickering about whether to remain or leave has been like constant white noise humming away in the background, to the extent that many young people could be in danger of tuning out entirely.
Yet I know that all of my friends, and the people with whom I work, are keen to use their vote; they just want to be able to make an informed choice. I believe we should really be focusing on the huge benefits we enjoy, and will continue to enjoy, as part of a thriving EU.
Just look at the life-changing opportunities it has created for us. We have the freedom to work and study right across Europe, without having to battle through mountains of red tape and visas. Travel could barely be easier, as we roam far and wide around the continent quickly, easily and conveniently with cheaper air travel. And we should not forget that it has even brought about less costly mobile phone calls, with the abolition of roaming charges.
Unison represents 64,000 young workers and we want them to help safeguard their rights and those of millions of other workers by encouraging them to back our continued role at the heart of Europe.
The employment legislation which has come from the EU has given us many huge benefits and protections. For example the working time directive allows us two days off each week, a minimum of four weeks holiday a year and ensures we should have 11 hours between shifts to stop us burning out.
Parental leave, paid holiday, limits on excessive hours and the right to maternity pay are just some of the important benefits we receive from the EU. Many young people may not feel the benefit of all of those just yet but we will be grateful in years to come.
We enjoy a lot of rights as a result of EU membership and I would urge young people to ensure they are registered because the youth vote can play a crucial part in whether we carry on benefitting from those rights.
This is a decision of a lifetime - and the consequences will affect us FOR a lifetime. It is vital young people should use this opportunity to make their voice heard - and most importantly, to vote decisively to continue to be part of the EU. No one is saying Europe is perfect but it is better to stay in and campaign for change than shouting from the sidelines to little effect.
Andrew Anderson, 23, works as a Health Care Assistant in an NHS Mental Health Trust and currently sits on the National Executive Committee for UNISON, representing UNISON Young Members nationally
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