Practical solidarity for a world that puts people first

20,000 call for change in union ballots

Handing in the petition at BIS. Photo Mark Thomas

Today (22 Oct), the trade union bill committee are meeting to discuss the bill’s proposals on union ballots, or specifically its lack of proposals to improve them. We marked this morning by handing in a petition signed by more than 20,000 supporters, calling for unions to be allowed to use secure online and workplace balloting in addition to the postal voting they are restricted to.

It’s important, as the current proposals in the trade union bill are totally wrong-headed. The government’s rationale for the new regulations are that they would like to see higher turnout in union strike votes. However, they are planning to address this merely by ruling invalid any vote that doesn’t meet arbitrary new thresholds. It’s new bureaucracy that nobody needs.

Back in the 1992 TULRCA act, unions were limited to only using the post to conduct strike ballots, rather than casting votes in the workplace. Turnouts immediately dropped. Postal balloting is slow, expensive, and depresses turnouts. People lose their papers in the junk mail, forget to post it until the deadline has passed, or even get returns lost in the post.

There are two ways we could get the turnouts back up. Secure online balloting would let people return a vote by computer or mobile. Government opposition to this has focused on it being insecure, but it’s only less secure when it’s compared to proper ballot box voting, which isn’t the choice on offer here. Postal voting is an imperfect system too and shares the same vulnerabilities as secure online. Hundreds of successful and secure online ballots have already been run by organisations of all types – including the Conservative Party themselves, who seem to have forgotten that they elected their London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith online only this month.

But if we take the government security concerns at face value then it’s bizarre that they won’t offer us the other useful option here – putting an independently controlled ballot box and secret vote into the workplace, so people can vote at work. That would be comparable to the general election system that they hold up as the gold standard for security and transparency.

We know that secure online and workplace balloting work in getting turnouts up. The government simply don’t need to bring in more red tape if they want to see more people voting in union strike ballots. They only need to LET US VOTE!

22 Oct 15

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