Profits for our financial year ending 30 June 2021 have increased to around £75,000, which is a fantastic achievement, especially as we paid out around £42,000 in redundancies for our Union Learning colleagues at the end of March 2021.
This is mainly down to the increase in subs, the new way of working and servicing our members, supporting reps remotely and an increase in settlement agreements advice being given by the full time officers.
Managing our Risk
Risk Management & Information Security
An information security and compliance assessment was conducted against Aegis’ Office 365 and Microsoft Azure services. Following this review several information security controls have been introduced; improving our overall compliance rating. These changes include:
· Introducing global Anti-Spam / Malware policies
· Defining several data retention policies across OneDrive & SharePoint
· Modernising our email routing to prevent Aegis’ emails from being marked as spam
During the next six months, additional controls will be introduced to further increase Aegis’ compliance rating.
Website & UMS Migration Project
Between March and June, the migration to Storm Internet was successfully completed. This scope of this project included the migration of the Aegis Website from HotBox, the data archiving and decommissioning of SuiteCRM (Unionlearn System), and the migration of UMS from Azure.
During a six week period, several of the team worked collaboratively with members of HotBox and Storm Internet to successfully test and migrate the services without any interruption to members or reps.
As a direct result of this project, our hosting cost have reduced by ~£600 p.a., including a 50%r reduction in Azure costs.
Business Continuity Planning
In line with the Aegis’ Risk Framework and following an assessment of our response to COVID-19, it was agreed that a review of Aegis’ Business Continuity Plan Engagement Project (BCP) would be conducted. This review identified several improvement areas (Inc. improved knowledge sharing opportunities and new ways for monitoring and managing critical suppliers) and resulted in a complete re-write of the union’s BCP plan.
On the whole, post Covid, it’s safe to say that a number of new problems have arisen in our quest to increase the Aegis membership, some of which are listed below:
· New member inductions being performed online in Teams or Zoom meetings are not getting the same results as previous face to face, in the room, inductions did.
· Reps working from home are struggling with motivation and engagement with members due to time constraints with work commitments and the nature of online meetings.
· A vast army of new young recruits into the financial services industry not knowing what a union is. Getting in front of them to educate, organise and recruit is a real problem.
· We’ve seen many small redundancy exercises throughout our recognised employers, which add up to a large amount overall, where long time Aegis members are leaving their work place.
· Our digital capabilities and knowledge / experience are lacking, especially where we are looking to organise in non-unionised work places.
So what are we doing about it?
Here’s what decisive action we have taken so far this year:
· All Assistant General Secretaries have had one to ones with all Aegis reps to kick start re-engagement and drive motivation to get more involved with case work and other activities.
· We have recently had a new rep recruitment drive which resulted in 14 new reps from across the divisions being successfully trained online on the new rep stage 1 & 2 courses.
A number of new reps could not attend so we are looking at dates for putting the training on for them.
· We have submitted a bid for Union Modernisation Funds (UMF) through the Scottish TUC which if granted will fund the roll out of bespoke new digital world training for our reps. This training will be designed to enable our reps to perform online inductions and meetings much better and with confidence. We expect a decision from the STUC early November.
·If we don’t get the funding we will investigate the possibility of funding it ourselves.
· We are working with the TUC digital resource team on a campaign to engage and organise with non-unionised sites in the financial sector. The pilot exercise is with a company in the Derry area, in the first instance. We are moving quickly with this and aim to have results and learning from this exercise by the end of this year. This is a really exciting opportunity, a first in the industry. We will take what we learn from this pilot and look to try out in other new sites across the UK in the new year.
· We put forward a motion at the TUC Conference in September, which was supported and accepted, which requested that the TUC puts aside budget and resource to help smaller unions in the finance sector campaign in the digital world to specifically educate, organise and recruit young workers in the sector. Our motion is hailed and featured in this months Labour Research magazine. As a TUC General Council member I am well positioned to ensure we take full advantage of this exciting new commitment.
· All divisions are now providing bespoke monthly newsletters that are being posted on all digital sites. The newsletter may include competitions and from time-to-time national campaigns.
· Pay campaigns and recruitment campaigns will now be advertised on employers intranet sites along with post on the Aegis website and facebook, twitter etc.
I hope you can see that proactive and decisive action has been taken both internally and externally to address the recruitment challenges that we, like so many other unions are facing, again, both internally and externally.
These are fresh, new, positive and exciting initiatives for Aegis in the new digital world. We will be concentrating on these as priorities over the next six months and I look forward to announcing some groundbreaking progress in my spring report.
During the second quarter this year the National Council agreed a new pay progression plan for the Aegis Assistant General Secretaries that seeks to bring their remuneration in line with industry peers over a two year period.
As part of this agreement it was also decided that there would be a three year pay freeze for the General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary to help fund the increases and ensure sustainability.
The General Secretary position is up for re-election this year. There are currently two nominations and the Aegis National Council will decide on each nominations suitability to go forward to an election process, based on candidates meeting predetermined selection criteria, at a special National Council meeting on 17th November.
In light of our Union Learning colleagues being made redundant at the end of March this year, it was hoped that roles would become available within the TUC and the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU). Working with others I put a proposal to both seeking new roles within those organisations to try to keep UL going. Unfortunately, although the will was there and the initiative was appreciated, for the need to create new posts, the available finance to fund the posts wasn’t. We believe that the majority of colleagues have now secured new positions elsewhere.
As stated earlier, under membership, we’re engaged with and utilising all the resources available to us through our valuable affiliations with the TUC, Scottish TUC, General Federation of Trade Unions and the Northern Ireland CTU to organise in a digital world to make an impact on non-unionised companies, young workers in the financial sector along with speaking to several staff associations about the benefits of them joining Aegis.
These are demanding yet exciting times for Aegis as we move forward, especially as now the dust is settling in the finance sector, post covid, we are seeing real change in how the sectors businesses pay and reward their employees.
As an independent trade union we have seen that our members rights to negotiations and consultations are being respected and where staff associations more unreliable agreements have been brushed aside and remuneration packages changed with little or no negotiation.
The next six months will be crucial as we work hard with our partners to make the definitive progress and advances we aspire to.
We have also seen a rise in settlement agreements which has helped increase the Aegis profits in this financial year. We are still looking to expand our service further, externally, but this will take time and specific circumstances to come about. One for the future.
All relations with the eight employers, where Aegis are recognised, are strong right now.
Sometimes it takes a crisis and the opportunities that presents to find out just how good and reliable a relationship is.
We have worked well with all employers throughout the pandemic, working together on the health & safety issues that arose, still doing many consultations throughout and more recently involved with members returning to work and policy updates / changes and consulting on hybrid working patterns.
Throughout the pandemic we have worked hard to promote the health, safety and well being of our members if every circumstance.
All FTO’s are aware of the looming changes ahead in our sector as businesses re-evaluate their strategies. We are involved in many consultations right now and we know of more to come. This is where our relationships and influence is most valuable to our members.
We are at the table.
Many of the great ideas we had a couple of years ago to promote Aegis in the community etc had to be shelved once the pandemic arrived.
We are hopeful that one day soon we will be in a position to revisit this.
One extremely valuable external offering we did have was to promote Aegis and Union Learning in schools and colleges in England, these are events that were extremely successful, benefitting everyone involved, but this unfortunately ceased when the government axed the Union Learning budget in March this year.
Through funding from the STUC Union Learning, we are engaging with black and ethnic minority communities in the Edinburgh area with a view to helping communities with access to employment in the financial services sector.
This will include CV writing, interview skills, meeting employers at specially set up job fares and much more.
This project, the first of it’s kind, is still in it’s infancy but we are very excited about the possible results from this. Another one to watch out for.
Aegis General Secretary
2 November 2021