Archive for Cost of Living

Pay 2024…

Unite in AXA have issued a newsletter as we start the 2024 pay round consulting with our members. Please leave your feedback below or talk to your local union rep.

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Never been more worried…

Unite in AXA have issued a newsletter on your feedback regarding the cost of living crisis in the national pay survey. Please leave your feedback below or talk to your local union rep.

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Commercial fail to consult (again)…

Members in Commercial Branches will now be aware that AXA Commercial is requiring them to work in the office a minimum three days of week. This change to team agreements in place since June 2021 was done without any consultation with, or the knowledge of, Unite in AXA. Following the unilateral suspension of flexitime back in 2019 – again without consultation (as required by the flexitime policy) we had hoped Commercial management would be following Group policy on social dialogue.

The country-wide diktat from the Company appears to contradict the changes to hybrid working contract email sent to staff in June 2021 which stated the levels of office/home working would be decided by “team agreements” (which are agreed at a local not national level) and would take into account you “own preferences”. This instruction from the Commercial exec does not comply with this and we believe could well break rules around custom and practice on working patterns. On top of this we are surprised that management think it is a good idea to increase commuting and travelling costs for under pressure employees during a cost of living rise, especially when many of these staff are not paid the market rate for the role they have.

If you are impacted by these changes and would like to challenge them, could you please contact you local Unite rep as soon as possible.

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Take it to the top…

Unite in AXA reps attending the AXA European Works Council in Paris today, took the opportunity to raise the issue of the cost of living crisis and pay with AXA Group CEO Thomas Buberl.

This is what we said:

The cost of living crisis crisis is a trans-European issue. In many countries people are struggling with energy bills, the cost of food, increasing fuel prices, rising interest rates etc. The impact, of course, varies from country to country depending on the level of Government support and other factors, but regardless it is a major issue of an unprecedented scale faced by many AXA workers across the continent many who are now being forced to make extremely difficult choices this winter.

Like many financial institutions AXA reported a strong performance in the first half of 2022 with an increase in profits of 11% to €3.9 billion, following on from what you called an “excellent performance” the previous year with underlying earnings up 61% to €6.8 billion. 

Whilst we appreciate you need to maintain strict controls on issues such as Solvency 2, the immediate negative impact of the cost of living crisis on many employees is such that it is not unreasonable for employee representatives such as ourselves to ask what actions AXA are taking to help its vulnerable workers across Europe and also ask that it give some more consideration to the problems the employees are facing, rather than the size of the dividend given to shareholders in 2023 or billion Euro share buy-backs.

When confronted with the reality that some employees of this company are faced with decisions about either switching on the heating or eating, and when others will be soon seeing increases in their mortgage payments that could well see them lose their homes, can it be right for a company as rich and as strong as AXA to enforce a real term pay cut on its employees by insisting its entities implement below inflation pay rises on the very workers who generate the “excellent performance” and generate the company’s multi-billion Euro profits through their hard work.

Please do not think the good will of the employees will last if you make them worse off in real terms at such a desperate time. There is a very big risk of them becoming disengaged negatively impacting company performance. There is a very big risk to their metal health which will negatively impact company performance. There is a major risk of skilled employees leaving negatively company performance 

AXA is a good employer, it has a good reputation, please ensure that remains the case in 2023 by not penalising your employees by effectively cutting their pay with below inflation increases and negatively impacting their well being as well, just so the company can make a few million more Euros and pay the shareholders a few cents more.

Thomas Buberl responded: The cost of living crisis clearly concerns all of us. It is very frightening. AXA is a responsible employer and has taken action with financial support for less well off in France and UK, and will continue to look at this. AXA will address issue of inflation in current salary negotiations looking to balance short and medium term issues and we have no doubt will find a good solution through social dialogue.

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AXA listen to Unite petition…

With over 1500 employees having signed our Working From Home allowance petition, we are very pleased that AXA UK have listened and will be putting a place a £26 a month tax and national insurance free allowance for all hybrid workers (except those in very senior positions) over the winter period backdated to the beginning of October.

Unite in AXA are pleased that AXA has agreed to take this action following our discussions given the pressures hybrid workers are facing on heating and electricity costs this winter.

This does not of course bring an end our discussions with the company on the Cost of Living Crisis and we are still working with them on a number of our suggestions to help staff at this extremely difficult time. Hopefully there will be more good news regarding help for struggling employees in the coming weeks…

The success here does demonstrate the importance of having your voice heard and there are more issues coming up, including the 2023 pay talks, which we will need the opinions of our members in AXA on soon.

If you do not feel you need the allowance and would like to donate it to charity you might consider giving it to the likes of National Energy Action, The Trussell Trust or Fareshare who are helping people struggling with the Cost of Living crisis…

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AXA ‘no’ to cost of living threshold uplift…

After representations by Unite in AXA, and other employee representative groups in AXA UK, the company have advised that they “won’t be expanding the scope of the one-off £1k cost of living payment”.

They said that they “recognise that all employees are making difficult decisions about how to save money and juggle their finances, and understand the approach taken own’t solve everyone’s household budget challenges” and that in their opinion “no solution… will be perfect”.  They “feel the package launched was the most sensible balance between the needs of employees, who are more likely to vulnerable vs. protecting the commercial health of the business”.

We are disappointed with this response, given the divisive binary nature of the threshold that upset many members, especially those unfortunate to fall just above the line, as well as the where this line was drawn. We will however continue to campaign for further and ongoing cost of living provision from the company, and do not regard this payment as all we are expecting to see AXA do to support its staff during this increasingly difficult time.

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AXA agree to provide interest-free hardship loans…

Back in July we made a number of suggestions to AXA of measures they could undertake to help staff during the cost of living crisis; one of these was an expansion of the Season Ticket Loan scheme to cover loans for any purpose to help employees with immediate financial problems.

Obviously we would like people not to be in a position where they need to take out a loan, but Unite in AXA felt that an interest-free option on a similar basis to the 0% interest Season Ticket scheme would help employees facing difficult choices with limited (often high interest) options in the market place.

Unite are pleased to see AXA have agreed to implement this suggestion over the next three months (until a new proposition should be in place). Please speak to your manager if you want more information about how much you can borrow and over what period. We would remind Unite members that the union provides free independent financial advice as part of their membership benefits, more details can be found here.

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Over 1,000 sign WFH allowance petition!

Over one thousand AXA employees have now signed our petition requesting the company to re-instate the Working From Home allowance for hybrid workers or introduce something similar to help staff facing increased heating and electricity costs this winter.

If you haven’t signed the petition yet please do so HERE – and don’t forget to get your work colleagues to as well, the more signatories the more minded the company to look to do something.

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Sign our petition to get the home working allowance back!

At the start of the pandemic when employees were required to work from home AXA UK awarded all staff a weekly allowance of £6 per week to help with increased utility bills, broadband costs etc. With the impact of the pandemic reduced and the majority of employees switching to a hybrid working contract AXA stopped paying this allowance in June last year.

Since then fuel prices (which drive electricity and heating prices) have increased by 12% in October 2021, 54% in April this year and will increase by a further 27% (and that after Government intervention) next month. Employees on hybrid contracts have endured and continue to face increasing costs to work from home that AXA does not help with.

Whilst employees are having now to pay to work at home with increased electricity usage and heating, AXA UK has been making big savings on its property portfolio, combining office locations (like Gloucester and Teesside) or reducing floor occupation (as in the likes of Birmingham, Bristol and Ipswich). Desk availability is now around 2/3 of the employee population, we cannot all work in the office at the same time. The vast majority of employees are now required to partly work from home and pay for the electricity needed to power their equipment to do their job, and heat the rooms they are working in. 

When you work in the office you are not asked to chip in for the electricity to power your PC or light the office, nor are you asked to contribute towards the cost of keeping the office heated. Why should you have to do this just because you are working in a different location that also happens to be your home?

AXA does pay a home working allowance to a much smaller population to “cover domestic costs like additional utility bills”; those employees designated “non-office based workers”. Whilst some of these do not work near an AXA office, and rarely if ever visit one, a considerable number of them visit AXA offices as regularly as some on hybrid worker contracts.

This inconsistency, along with the cost hybrid workers are facing to work from home (when AXA is making savings from employees doing this) is why we are calling on AXA to re-instate the working from home allowance for hybrid workers, or provide some pro-rata allowance to cover the days employees now work at home rather than the office.

They are reluctant to do this which is why we are asking you, the employees, to sign this petition, and encourage your colleagues to do so to, so management understand the strength of feeling on this issue and re-consider their stance in asking employees to pay to work form home, whilst they make big savings in reduced property costs across the UK.


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AXA take cost of living action – for some…

Two months on from our request that AXA take urgent action to help staff during the cost of living crisis by making a one-off payment and taking other measures, the company has today announced the award of £1,000 to those employees earning £33,000 or less, and an increase in the company minimum wage to £11 an hour.

These measures are, to a point, welcome and we are pleased that a number of staff facing real difficulties will now receive some help with the day to day issues they are facing. Approximately 900 employees will benefit from the increase in the minimum wage and 4,200 will receive the one-off £1000 award in their October pay packets.

However, Unite in AXA do not believe the company have gone as far as it could have and note that the award is at the lower end of those that have already been awarded in the financial services sector.

The imposition of an arbitrary salary limit to qualify for the award is, in our opinion, hard to justify for a number of reasons, especially when most other companies have not done this. It is divisive and we have asked the company to reconsider its approach by either removing the limit, increasing it, or applying the award to all those staff in Professional grades and lower. Whilst, as we have said, it is good news for 4,200 employees, there will be a considerable number in the 3,620 who will receive nothing in October, that are also struggling with the cost of living crisis.

The increase in the minimum wage is of course welcome, but again not without issue in that it causes problems with pay compression and the erosion of historic pay awards for those who are just above the new level. We have reminded AXA that it was agreed that we would jointly look at pay progression as a topic to help try and alleviate the problems that changes in pay scales can cause, and we are looking forward to working on this issue with them.

Overall today’s news is something of a mixed bag and its impact dependent on personal circumstances. We are pleased that our efforts will see 54% of AXA UK employees receive an extra ordinary one off award to help them in these difficult times. We have not however forgotten the 46% that AXA has chosen to ignore and we will continue to work on your behalf to get you the help that you also need.

Also, from our point of view, this is just a first step on the cost of living challenge and have made it clear to the company that today’s news is not all that can or needs to be done by it to help employees during the cost of living crisis.

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