This month I have attempted to answer a number of questions we as a union ask ourselves and we’re also being asked regularly by members and external commentators, especially in the current climate.
Following the financial crash trade unions lost thousands of members as financial services providers made mass redundancies, so all unions had to adapt their model to reflect this. For Aegis, the amalgamation of Aegis, YISA and SURGE has proven to be pivotal to our survival and sustainability as one independent trade union. The pandemic has also had an impact on our sector, like every other. Our members have been working from home or continuing to work in branches and head offices for over a year so this inevitably means we have had to rethink how we operate.
Aegis have adapted very quickly to lockdown which is reflected in the way we now work. We have worked collaboratively with all our recognised employers. Initially discussing the health and safety of our members as the virus started to have impact, then pressing for best practice regarding the set up for the vast majority to work from home and ensuring that those that continued work in branches and head offices were working in safe conditions.
Using Teams, Zoom and other communication channels we keep in contact with reps and members who have been busy feeding back members queries and concerns and we have all been active in finding solutions to these for members.
Without doubt. Within the sector, where we have recognition, Aegis negotiate and consult on all matters affecting the workplace such as terms and conditions of employment, pay, hours of work, holidays, company policies, benefits package, bonus schemes, organisational restructures and many more. Aegis have managed to secure and retain some of the best working conditions and benefits packages in any sector.
Additionally, Aegis and our reps support thousands of members every year dealing with individual problems in the workplace. These include disciplinary issues, grievances against a colleague or a manager, performance management issues, flexible working requests, redundancy situations, change of job or work. We also have forged good working relationships with senior leaders in our recognised organisations and are a trusted partner. This means we are able to deal with many issues informally through the relationships we have with HR and managers throughout the business. This is usually in the best interests of both parties.
Our recognised employers are constantly adapting to change and Aegis provide key support for colleagues who are impacted by this. We also provide a critical sounding board for employers who need to adapt their organisation but retain colleague engagement. We do have a lot of influence in the organisations where we are recognised.
Aegis are also represented on a number of key powerful influential bodies such as the TUC General Council, STUC Women’s Committee, GFTU Executive, Alliance for Finance, TUC LGBT+ Committee, Yorkshire TC, Derry TC, Scottish Parliamentary Groups, to name but a few.
Yes. The majority of trade unions in the financial services sector began as single employer staff associations. Many, like our union, developed over time into independent trade unions, however many did not. Many organisations still retain a staff association and fully fund it. This means employees have no incentive to join a trade union as they feel their staff association adequately represents their interests without employees having to pay any subs. However, only independent trade unions members have certain rights and access to many benefits and crucially union funds to aid legal support and escalation of problems where necessary.
Another obstacle is the out-sourcing of parts of the business to organisations that don’t recognise a union and don’t want to. This dilutes our membership as we don’t always have the same influence on the new employers.
Finally, I would also add that organising and getting in front of people to let them know that they can join a union and the benefits of doing so, which has traditionally been the most effective way of signing up new members, has been made extremely difficult since the start of Covid and working from home.
Aegis do attend online induction courses for new starts, which does help in the current situation and the team of full-time officers are continually coming up with new ways of communicating with members and non-members so our messages and influence can be heard.
As lockdown restrictions are lifted in many areas across the country in June we hope all our members are able to stay safe, remember hands, mask, distance and enjoy the sunshine.
3 June 2021