12 January 2018
Facing widespread opposition to the Trade Union Act 2016, the government was forced to make a concession to trade union rights in the form of a review into the possibility of allowing industrial action ballots to be performed electronically.
The Knight Review was launched to assess the safety of e-balloting, which is already used for internal votes within the Conservative Party and elsewhere.
Currently trade unions may only ballot their members through a postal vote. Faced with higher turnout and support thresholds to reach in order to take industrial action, the government was pushed to provide a more efficient, cost-effective and easy-to-use system in order to encourage participation in ballots among union members.
However, the Knight Review, which was published in December 2017, has refrained from recommending the immediate use of e-balloting technologies for industrial action ballots, proposing that pilots should first be performed on the non-statutory votes unions already conduct online – such as surveys to measure strength of feeling on certain issues.
The results of these tests would “potentially be the basis for the Secretary of State to decide the matter”, Knight concluded.
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, described the review as “a missed opportunity”.
“Union members should have access to the same modern balloting methods as other organisations. If it’s safe and secure for political parties to elect candidates and leaders online, why can’t unions have electronic ballots?
“It’s time to bring union balloting into the 21st century. The government must stop dragging its feet on this issue.”