02 February 2016
Labour peers have proposed new amendments to the Trade Union Bill to introduce e-balloting for trade unions and uphold international standards in the definition of “essential” public services.
Lord Kerslake amended Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill – relating to a 50% threshold on turnout for ballots relating to industrial action; and a 40% support threshold in “important” public services, respectively – to incorporate permission for trade unions to use electronic voting systems.
E-balloting was recently used to nominate the Conservative runner for London mayor Zac Goldsmith, and has been recommended for use in the 2020 General Election. Despite this, the Tories have argued that the system is open to fraud and cannot be used fairly used for trade union ballots.
Tory peer Lord Balfe recently rebelled against the Party line by amending the Trade Union Bill himself to include permission for trade unions to use this more convenient form of balloting. By using modern systems, trade unions have a better chance of acquiring the 50% turnout they would require for industrial action when the new rules pass into law.
Lord Kerslake added further detail, including that the new thresholds may not come into force until an independent report has been presented to both Houses regarding the security of various forms of balloting. The Secretary of State would then need to produce a strategy for rolling-out e-balloting for trade unions and lay this before both Houses.
Lords Mendelsohn and Collins of Highbury made an additional amendment to Clause 3 to define “important” public services (those which would be subject to the new 40% support threshold). The amendment reproduces the definition of “essential” public services provided by the International Labour Organization:
services the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or
health of the whole or part of the population”
The IER has argued there is no justification not to abide by this commonly accepted definition. Indeed, a consultation performed by the government demonstrated that only services whose interruption would endanger health, safety or national security were considered “important” by the majority of respondents.
Protect the right to strike: Kill the Bill – just £5!
The Conservative Government’s proposed strike ballot thresholds: The challenge to trade unions – just £6!