Issue date
06 Jan 2016

6 January 2016

The TUC is today (Wednesday) calling on the candidates in the London mayoral election who were selected by online balloting to back the use of the same technology by trade unions.

The law currently prohibits secure online voting technology through computers and smart phones for strike ballots. Trade unions can only use expensive and out-dated postal ballots, which the TUC says is a barrier to higher turnout rates.

The London mayoral candidates of the two major political parties – Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan – were both selected using secure electronic balloting through websites and smartphones for at least some of the votes cast.

However the Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, has voted in favour of legislation currently before parliament that would continue the prohibition on trade unions using the same type of online balloting used in his own selection.

The TUC says that there is evidence that a majority of the public believes it would be appropriate for trade unions to be allowed to make use of online voting technology for strike ballots.

A new poll commissioned from YouGov, and published by the TUC today (Wednesday), has found that a majority of British people think it is appropriate for industrial ballots to use online voting technology similar to that used by political parties to select London mayoral candidates.

The TUC commissioned poll found that more than one in two (53%) people say voting for strike action electronically through a secure, dedicated website is appropriate, whilst only one in five (20%) say it is inappropriate for unions to be able to do this.

Despite the Conservative candidate’s opposition to electronic balloting for trade unions, the poll also found that 47% of current Conservative voters believe it would be appropriate for trade unions to use electronic balloting.

As well as political parties, many blue chip companies use online voting to let shareholders vote in corporate ballots.

The TUC believes allowing union members to use smart phones and computers to engage in voting would raise turnouts and give more workers a clear say.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Trade unions want to move with the times and use the best tools available to give workers a say. The political parties are using online voting technology now, including party votes to select their mayoral candidates. It’s undemocratic to continue a ban on trade unions using this technology too. What’s sauce for the goose is surely sauce for the gander.

“If Zac Goldsmith cared about raising democratic participation, he would not have voted for the Trade Union Bill, which will continue to enforce a ban on trade unions using modern voting technology.

“Let’s be clear, the Trade Union Bill is not about improving industrial relations. Candidates in the London mayoral election should stick up for the democratic rights of workers in the capital by opposing the Trade Union Bill. London needs political leaders who will engage positively with working people and their representatives, not make their lives harder.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- The Conservative Party and Labour Party ballots for selection of London mayoral candidates were both supervised by Electoral Reform Services Ltd.

- Zac Goldsmith voted in support of the Trade Union Bill’s Third Reading in the House of Commons on 10 November 2015, which will continue a prohibition on the use of online balloting by trade unions. His mayoral election campaign has handed out leaflets to commuters highlighting his support for the bill.

- The TUC opposes the Trade Union Bill, which has its second reading in the House of Lords on Monday 11 January, and is calling on the government to scrap the bill and legislate to allow trade unions to use online voting in strike ballots.

- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,711 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22 and 23 December 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all online GB adults (aged 18+). YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council.

- The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group uses online voting to elect employee reps to their ‘UK Employee Consultative Body’, EE ran its employee rep election online, Britvic Soft Drinks ran its employee Involvement Forum election online and Shell’s employee forum election was an online vote. Business organisations also use online votes. For example, the Federation of Small Businesses held online ballots for its AGM and Directors’ elections.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Follow the TUC on Twitter: @The_TUC and follow the TUC press team @tucnews