General Secretary Report September 2021

This month the 153rd Trade Union Congress Conference is from 12th – 14th. The pandemic means we’re having to meet online once again, but this time we’ll have delegates debating motions in a much more interactive format.

Of course, Congress remains our primary democratic decision-making forum, and we’ll be debating how to build back fairer, greener and more equal from the pandemic. We’ll be discussing investment in our public services, including decent pay for public sector workers. We’ll be highlighting the need to rebuild our economy and tackle the climate emergency with good green jobs. We’ll be debating how to deliver dignity at work, with flexibility for all, action on fire and rehire, and stronger rights. And we’ll be striving to put equality at the heart of everything we do.

During Congress, we’ll also be reflecting on the immense contribution, and sacrifice, working people have made during the pandemic – and we’ll be celebrating our movement’s achievements, including our fourth consecutive year of TUC membership growth. I really hope you enjoy Congress, follow the proceedings online and together let’s build the stronger trade unions working people need.

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Congress is open to all and we want trade unionists and working people from across the UK to come and join us. Invite your colleagues and friends to sign up at


Aegis have two motions on the Final Agenda at this year's conference.

The first is the following:

Motion 30 Auto-enrolment and the lowest paid

Congress acknowledges that a major incentive for workers to save for retirement is the tax relief they receive on their pension contributions. Everyone who saves into a pension is entitled to a government ‘top-up’ of at least 20 per cent, whether they are a taxpayer or not.

However, due to a tax loophole, thousands of the lowest paid workers are not benefitting from this. Non-taxpayers in a Net Pay Scheme don’t and they miss out on the government top-up. Industry experts have highlighted this injustice to the UK government, but it has done nothing to address it. The government continues to encourage the lowest paid to save for their retirement while denying them tax incentives.

Congress also argues that the pressure needs to be kept on government to make sure that auto-enrolment makes pensions open to all. There are an estimated 4.8 million low-income workers excluded from auto-enrolment as they earn less than £10,000 a year, the auto-enrolment trigger. Many work part-time and have more than one job, which means their total income is more than £10,000. However, they miss out on an employer pension contribution because of the way the pension rules work.

Congress calls on the TUC to campaign to stop the low paid falling through the cracks of auto-enrolment by developing it in a way that helps low earners save for a decent retirement. This means bringing together low-income multiple jobs for the purpose of automatic enrolment.


Our second motion, 71, now forms part of a composite motion, joining together with motion 69. Fiona Steele, Aegis Deputy General Secretary will be speaking to support the composite at conference.

Here’s our original Motion:

Motion 71 Targeting membership in the private sector

There are currently around 18 million non-unionised workers in the private sector in the UK. Only 10% of workers aged 16 – 24 in any sector of the UK are in a union.

Around 40% of all current union members are over 50.

We are not recruiting enough young members to replace those members whom we will lose to retirement over the next 10 – 15 years.

If we don’t do something different, the future of trade union membership in the private sector will continue to decline.

The list of issues impacting young workers has never been so grim so there are significant campaign possibilities:

  • Precarious and zero-hour contracts
  • Unsafe working conditions exacerbated by covid 19
  • Fire and rehire
  • Low levels of pay with little or no benefits
  • Bullying and harassment at work

Serious commitment from the movement to address these challenges has already started.

Last summer the TUC General Council and the General Secretaries of all TUC affiliates signed up to the TUC Organising Pledge.

The pledge commits the movement to addressing six strategic challenges, which is a positive initiation.

However, so much has changed, at pace, since making this commitment and therefore Congress calls on the TUC to go a stage further, which would include:

  • A concentrated, focused, digital marketing campaign specifically aimed at 16 – 24 year olds in the private sector.
  • A dedicated budget and resource to support and work with affiliates to help achieve increased membership in the private sector.

I really hope you take the opportunity to attend online this year and remember there are also many fantastic fringe events to sign up for too, all can be accessed through the TUC website.


Brian Linn

General Secretary

Aegis the Union

1 September 2021


“A member could come and talk to me about anything that might be on their mind, even if it's just to get something off their chest.”

Fredrick MarkhamAegis Representative