As I look back at 2021, I don’t just see the heartache and chaos Covid has impacted on many people’s lives, I also acknowledge the great work that Aegis and other unions have done in what is still today, an extremely difficult, and challenging environment.
The year started with the bombshell from the Government that they were going to axe the Union Learning funding in England from the end of March 2021, which they did.
This meant the end of an extremely successful Aegis Union Learning project that helped thousands of members access free learning and development over many years. Learning that not only helped members achieve qualifications that helped them move up in their employment but also helped the businesses where we are recognised upskill their employees. We were devasted to see our amazing UL team of five leave their employment with Aegis.
In April I informed you of the many Equality, Diversity and Inclusion projects that Aegis are involved in. This included raising motions at STUC and TUC conferences regarding women’s inequality in relation to the gender pay and pensions gap and the contributory factors. We also trained and developed our new equality reps in each division and we regularly meet each business EDI manager which gives us the opportunity to help, support and influence their programmes. We are involved in many other initiatives and committees, along with my role on the TUC LGBT+ Committee which is to represent, support and raise awareness of the issues impacting the LGBT+ community at the TUC General Council meetings.
This year the Scottish TUC conference was from 19 to 21 April, all online. I’ve attended hundreds of conferences over my twenty-year union career, but probably none of them have kept me so engrossed or had evoked my unwavering interest as much as this one.
Each of the leaders making keynote speeches, (Roz Foyer, Francis O’Grady and Mary Senior) made strong, direct, focused speeches that also delivered on interest, relevant content with clarity, passion and enthusiasm.
We were left inspired and in no doubt what issues they were talking about and the solutions they are seeking. All speeches were passionately made by someone who truly believes in what they are saying, and I believe they will do everything they can to make the changes they want to see happen.
In June I reported on how the role of Aegis has evolved and changed in line with the UK Financial Services sector, how we maintain effectiveness and what obstacles we face in the current climate and in future.
I’ve been a member of the TUC General Council for a few years now. We had a General Council meeting in July, which had such a full and varied agenda, it occurred to me that there is so much that the TUC are doing, most of which doesn’t get reported in the media, therefore many of our members will be unaware of TUC campaigns and even successes, such as the Furlough scheme.
I used my July report to shine a light on the TUC current campaigns. Aegis joined 38 other unions in sending a letter to the equalities minister Liz Truss in July regarding the government’s failure to prioritise and progress LGBT+ rights.
The letter particularly called for:
· a new duty on employers to protect workers from harassment by customers and clients
· a specific duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment
· Reinstatement of employment tribunals' powers to make wider recommendations to employers
· the recruitment of a new LGBT Advisory Panel, with a clear mandate and trade union representation.
In August, Fiona Steele, Aegis Deputy General Secretary, kindly wrote the GS report while I was on holiday. Fiona took the opportunity to write about some of the varied and wonderful things she is involved in, not least, announcing that at the STUC Women’s Committee conference in October she will have the honour of being appointed Chair of the Committee.
Fiona is very proud to follow in the footsteps of so many Scottish Women Trade Unionists since it was formed in 1927. It is also a first for Aegis to be in the chair of an STUC Committee, so hopefully it will increase our external profile as a union. It can be quite a high-profile role as the chair represents the committee at many events across the UK during their time in the chair. Additionally, at the end of her year she will chair the Women’s Conference in October 2022, so we hope as many of you as possible will be able to come along to support her in the Rothes Halls. Everyone at Aegis wishes Fiona the best of luck during her time in this high profile role.
In September the 153rd TUC Congress remains our primary democratic decision-making forum, and we were debating how to build back fairer, greener, and more equal from the pandemic. We also discussed investment in our public services, including decent pay for public sector workers. We highlighted the need to rebuild our economy and tackle the climate emergency with good green jobs. We debated how to deliver dignity at work, with flexibility for all, action on fire and rehire, and stronger workers rights including putting equality at the heart of everything we do.
During Congress, we reflected on the immense contribution, and sacrifice, working people have made during the pandemic – and we celebrated our movement’s achievements, including our fourth consecutive year of TUC membership growth.
Aegis had two motions supported and passed at this years TUC Congress, Motion 30 – Auto-enrolment and the lowest paid and Motion 71 – Targeting membership in the private sector.
At the end of Congress I was re-elected on to the TUC General Council.
I will also continue my work as the General Council member of the TUC LGBT+ Committee.
General Council members are elected for a one-year term every year. I am very fortunate and privileged to have been serving on the General Council since 2018.
I hope that my seat at the table will keep Aegis' profile, voice and influence at the forefront of TUC campaigns and recognition at the highest level in Government.
In November I reported on our strategic priorities, giving you a full and extensive report on how we are doing now and how we intend to tackle the challenges of the future. My report focused on financial planning, managing risk, website migration project, business continuity, membership, our people, our future, employer engagement and responsible business.
Although I don’t tend to focus too much on external issues in my monthly report, with the passing of COP26 in November, my December report focused on climate change being an issue that we as a union really need to support. We looked at how governments are and were willing to talk big but reality is that a lot of this talk is not matched with action.
We will keep fighting for climate action that adds up to science-based targets and provides a just transition for workers. And as trade unionists we must win that change in our workplaces too.
We must all ask our employers ‘what are you doing to reduce your carbon emissions?’
Aegis the Union