Issue date
20 Jul 2016

Trade unions and electoral reform

Revised edition, 2016.


The composite motion on electoral reform passed at the 2015 Congress noted that the Conservative government elected in 2015 secured the support of just 24 per cent of the British population. Since that election unions have had to campaign as never before in defence of jobs, services, and our democratic right to organise.

Trade unions have democratic traditions built into our DNA. Members elect their workplace representatives and their national leaders, vote on policy and on when to take industrial action. In the campaign against the Trade Union Bill, unions argued for the right to be able to conduct ballots online. We secured an independent investigation into how electronic voting could work in practice, but our commitment to increasing democratic participation goes wider than this, and has a long history.

Debate on our electoral system is not an abstract one; the type of system we use fundamentally affects the nature of our politics. Change should not be taken lightly and the implications of any proposed new system must be fully considered. Our movement has powerful advocates both for change and for retaining the current system and it is important that all of these voices are heard.

Following the resolution at Congress 2015, this updated version of a 2010 TUC paper sets out to examine the background to the electoral reform debate and the role of unions, some of the arguments for and against change and the practicalities of different systems.

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