Calls to change strike ballot rules are un-democratic
Another day and another attack by a right-wing think tank on trade unions (did they all have a meeting during the summer break to coordinate all of this?). Today it’s the turn of Policy Exchange who are calling for reform of the rules on strike ballots so that at least 40% of the workforce must have voted in favour of a strike for it to be valid (rather than a simple majority of those voting).
This is obviously deeply undemocratic. For a start, such a change would assume that those not voting in a ballot where against the proposed strike when in fact there could be a number of reasons for them not voting. Yes they could be against the strike, but in my experience strength of feeling especially when it comes to potentially losing income, usually guarantees that an opinion is registered. But they could also have not taken part for mundane reasons such as losing their ballot paper, being ill or simply forgetting.
It is also unfair to impose a threshold on trade unions that applies to no other regular elections held in the UK. Indeed if a 40% turnout threshold applied to elections for local councils and the European Parliament then we’d have hardly any councillors or MEPs. In the ten elections for local authorities between between 1998 and 2007 on only two occasions did the turnout exceed 40% (when local elections where held on the same day as a General Election). For elections to the European Parliament the figures are worse: the turnout in elections held between between 1979 and 2009 NEVER rose above 40%.
The call from Policy Exchange is also of course a cynical politically motivated attack on basic workplace rights and is a clear attempt to reduce the ability of unions and their members to defend jobs and services ahead of the cuts to be announced in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.
Finally, seeing as the Policy Exchange wants to re-define what constitutes democratic legitimacy, lets look at some other recent election results;
- Percentage of the electorate voting Conservative at the 2010 General Election – 36.1%
- Percentage who voted Lib Dem at the last election – 23%
- Percentage who voted for parties who said early cuts would be BAD for the economy – 52%
- Number of MPs who received less than 40% of the vote when elected – 104
- Number of MPs with minority mandates (i.e. received less than 50% of the vote) – 434 (66.7%)