PCS national conference 2015: Further Assaults on Trade Union Democracy

The Tories have wasted no time in ramping up their attacks on workers and their organisations. As promised in their manifesto, they plan to introduce in the Queens speech legislation that will require Unions to achieve a 50% + 1 threshold in strike ballots before they can take action. In what they describe as key sectors: Transport, Education, Health and the Fire Service 40% of eligible members must vote yes, and there must be a majority for action, before strikes can take place. They also plan to allow agencies to recruit scabs to replace strikers.

It is also likely that the period of notice a union is required to give an employer of action (currently 7 days) will be extended and there will be a shelf life on strike mandates for discontinuous strike action. These changes will make a vote for national strike action extremely difficult to achieve. We may be wrong, but we can’t think of a single national strike ballot in PCS’ history where turn out has been greater than 50%.

The hypocrisy of all this is obvious. The Tories formed a majority government with the support of 24.4% of the electorate. That doesn’t even take into account voting methods. Most voters in a general or local authority election cast their vote at a polling station. In strike ballots the method is postal voting. Much of the anti union legislation was passed in the early nineties. These days most people have access to the internet or smart phones or tablets. Why can’t Union members vote using these devices.

Of course the legislation is deliberately designed to inhibit worker participation. Union members end up atomised, voting on their own and not in a collective way.

We believe that rank and file members should determine their own Union rule books free from state intervention. If Union members wish to vote for strikes in mass membership meetings then they should have that right.

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