The government has announced the implementation of more SLF policy. Just a couple of weeks since the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference adopted new SLF policy on trade unions, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has reached an agreement with the Trades Union Congress to begin work towards enabling trades unions to ballot their members electronically.
Enabling trade unions to modernise and encourage wider participation in trade union ballots by introducing electronic voting was one aspect of the policy drafted by SLF council member Janice Turner, proposed to conference by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and summated by Justice Minister Simon Hughes. The motion's signatories included the SLF and ALDTU leadership.
On 31st March Vince Cable announced that a small expert task force will be established to consider how best to implement e-balloting in keeping with current legislation. Under existing laws, balloting union members for industrial action and union elections must be done by postal vote. The task force will consider how e-balloting can be brought in alongside this system.
By making voting more accessible, e-balloting in trades unions is likely to increase voter turnout and allow ballot outcomes to offer a better guide to the mood of the workforce.
The Liberal Democrats have pledged to introduce e-balloting as a manifesto commitment. The 31 March announcement brings the party one step closer to implementing this change.
The task force will produce a report on the introduction of e-balloting, which will eventually be presented to Government with a view to making subsequent legislative changes.
Vince said: “We currently enjoy some of the best industrial relations in a generation, with overall strike days at an all-time low. Unions have been central to our economic recovery by keeping employees flexible, so we could keep Britain working.
“The Conservatives have an ideological aversion to trade unions and have repeatedly tried – and failed – during this Parliament to curtail their mandate, such as trying to impose an arbitrary minimum threshold for vote turnouts.
“Many elected representatives such as MPs, police commissioners or local councillors are elected with a low turnout.
“I favour more sensible reform by enabling unions to ballot their members using modern electronic voting and I have instructed my officials to work out how we can make this compatible with the current legal framework.
“This will increase the democratic legitimacy of any vote and the Liberal Democrats will be making the implementation of e-balloting a manifesto commitment.”
Naomi Smith, Chair of the Social Liberal Forum said, "SLF is delighted that yet another of its policies is being implemented by government. The policy on trades unions clearly had vast support in the party: conference delegates voted for the motion almost unanimously".