The draconian and unpopular Trade Union Bill took another step closer to becoming law last night as it cleared the Commons despite the protests of many MPs.
The Government again refused to accept online strike ballots yet government ministers claimed the Bill was necessary to “modernise” industrial relations!
The government knows that it will be difficult for Unions to reach high participation thresholds to authorise strikes without online voting.
A bid to amend the Bill to allow online strike ballots was defeated by 301 votes to 268.
This is despite Government statements that they were 'open' to online voting for future political elections and despite every major UK political party using online voting for internal elections.
As Areeq Chowdhury, the Founder of WebRoots Democracy, points out:-
"Just weeks prior to the Prime Minister's rejection in the House of Commons of online voting for trade unions, Conservative Party members in London had voted online to elect Zac Goldsmith as their 2016 London Mayoral candidate."
When asked during PMQs by Labour MP, Liz McInnes, why he was against allowing trade union members to vote online the Prime Minister cited research by the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy to support his position.
Areeq Chowdury says of this:
"I found this to be an odd citation considering the headline recommendation of the Speaker's Commission was for an online voting option to be implemented in the next General Election.
This mirrors a recommendation made by the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee in research they undertook on voter engagement."
Labour shadow business minister Kevin Brennan said that the government’s “continued refusal to introduce e-balloting alongside secure workplace balloting clearly demonstrates they aren’t serious about modernisation.”
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The Government has shown once again its determination to undermine the fundamental right to strike.
"Ministers simply want to make it harder for working people to get fair treatment at work."
Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity commented: "It's pretty clear that the Tories are seeking to make it nigh impossible for Unions to meet the high targets set for member participation in strike ballots by ruling out online voting. That the same Party uses online voting internally itself shows their motives aren't about any genuine concern over security or authentication. Our Union wants greater power for members but the government is actually making it difficult for Unions to raise participation levels. This was a bad decision. I hope that the Lords will vote it down and allow online strike ballots."