Unite offers compromise on Trade Union Bill


A leading union has offered the Government a compromise over controversial plans to introduce tough new thresholds for strike action for transport workers.

Under the Trade Union Bill, which will soon begin its Committee stage in the House of Commons, the Government could outlaw industrial action in key sectors including transport, education and health without both at least 50% of union members voting and 40% supporting the action.

As a compromise, leading union Unite, has offered ‘secret, secure workplace voting in return for the acceptance of ballot thresholds’.

Unite’s leader, Len McCluskey, has written to the prime minister asking him to adopt the system that has been used in union recognition votes since 2000.

Unite said in a statement that the recognition system had delivered ‘dozens of safe, secure ballots’ with ‘not one case of fraud or abuse’. It added that no ballot ever produced a turnout below 50% and most were above 90%.

Len McCluskey stated in his letter to Mr Cameron: ‘Were you to be able to accept this modern and democratic proposal to update balloting procedures then Unite, for its part, would be comfortable about accepting the thresholds and the time limit on the validity of ballots proposed in the Trade Union Bill, without prejudice to our position on other elements of the legislation.

‘I very much hope you will respond to this proposal in the spirit with which it is intended. I am of course happy to meet you or such minister as you may designate to discuss the matter further.’

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: 'It is imperative that union members, employers and the public have the utmost confidence in ballot processes. Currently ballot requirements mean that a postal ballot is required for industrial action, union election and political fund ballots.

'There are significant challenges for electronic balloting including hacking, vote selling and voter intimidation, as recognised by the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy earlier this year.”

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