03 November 2016
The government has launched an independent review into permitting trade unions to use electronic balloting services for industrial action as part of the Trade Union Act 2016 (TUA).
In a Written Ministerial Statement, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, Margot James announced that Sir Ken Knight would chair the review and report back to parliament no later than December 2017.
The review is a hard won concession to the TUA after the Tories argued that trade unions should only make use of inefficient and expensive postal ballots rather than the very electronic services the Conservative Party itself uses for internal votes, pointing to the potential for fraud.
Using postal ballots alone makes it very difficult for trade unions to meet the new thresholds for support of industrial action introduced elsewhere in the TUA of 50% turnout, and for ‘important’ public services an additional 40% of the full workforce (including those who didn’t vote) in support of a strike.
Trade unions argued that introducing electronic balloting would provide a more accurate way to canvas members’ views, and the launch of an independent review into the issue, the result of which the Minister must lay before parliament, was the compromise reached.
Margot James today announced that the review would specifically look into:
- The electronic and physical security of e-balloting methods;
- If any system can safeguard against risk of intimidation of union members and protect anonymity of ballot responses;
- The security and resilience of existing practices of balloting union members;
- The aims of the Trade Union Act to ensure strikes to the public only happen as a result of a clear decision by those entitled to vote.