date: Friday 17 January 2003 - embargo: Monday 20 January 2003
Attention: Industrial, political, and internet correspondents
Trade union leaders, representing millions of UK employees, will today (Monday) email Alan Johnson MP, Minister for Employment Relations, asking him to end the outdated anti-union ban on online voting for major union ballots.
The pioneering use of e-balloting has significantly increased turnouts in union votes where it is allowed (i.e., pay ballots, minor elections) but the Employment Relations Act 1999 prevents its use for major ballots including those governing industrial action, union elections and political funds (a separate fund that unions must establish to spend money on political objectives, including affiliation to political parties).
The TUC co-ordinated campaign is urging the Minister to amend the 1999 Act, currently under review, to add phone and online voting to the traditional methods used in all ballots that the UK’s 7 million union members have a legal right to take part in.
The email will be sent by dozens of General Secretaries, from the leaders of the biggest unions to many smaller specialist unions, and Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary Elect, who said today (Monday):
'Unions are using the internet to sharpen and broaden the services they deliver. Online ballots are pushing up turnout, people can join some unions online, workSMART.org.uk reaches out to non-union members, and unions are targeting information and campaign resources through websites and email.
'The government should give unions the freedom to improve services and participation through the internet. Outdated law is hindering the advance of e-democracy.'
Quotes from General Secretaries:
Dave Prentis , Unison:
'Unison won the TUC award for best union website last year. We are working hard to develop the internet as a resource for members, the government should remove any obstacles to our online progress.'
Derek Simpson , Amicus-AEEU:
'Amicus will be keen to see new technologies used to extend participation in all of its democratic elections and industrial action ballots. This will be an effective enhancement to the democratic process.'
Roger Lyons , Amicus-MSF:
"There is no reason for not allowing Unions to conduct statutory elections electronically. Government wants to improve participation in the democratic process. Give unions the right and union members the chance participating in democracy electronically."
John Edmonds, GMB:
'Technology has given us new ways of engaging the public at large. Outdated laws should not get in the way of democracy.'
Billy Hayes, CWU:
"The government should welcome the opportunities new technology provides for affordable democratic processes. I hope the minister will respond to this call to remove unnecessary barriers."
Mark Serwotka, PCS:
"PCS has been at the forefront of e-voting and see it as a vital tool in engaging and representing members of trade unions."
Ed Sweeney , UNIFI :
' Democracy can be reinvigorated by the use of technology. The government legislating to bring about e-voting in trade union and our country's democracy would have enormous benefits in terms of improved participation and cost effectiveness. '
Richard Rosser , TSSA:
"At a time when more and more trade unionists are using email, unions themselves should be able to conduct ballots electronically. Such a move would be sure to increase participation by members.'
Adrian Askew, Connect:
'Connect members working in the communications industry are committed to helping the government expand democracy and increase participation. Electronic decision making helps us to expand this principle in our union organisation.'
Jim McAuslan, BALPA:
"BALPA members work worldwide - electronic participation is the only solution."
Roger Bolton, BECTU:
'BECTU is organising members who very much work in the new Millennium, and urges the Government to ensure the appropriate legislative changes to ensure that legislation reflects the needs of the new Millennium.'
Notes to Editors:
For further information on the e-Day campaign and more quotes from General Secretaries visit: www.tuc.org.uk/e-day
All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk
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Issued: 20 January, 2003