Thursday, 10 July 2014

Ballots thresholds and striking for decent pay

A million people across the UK have been taking strike action today to protest at falling pay. It's a clear message to Government that people have had enough having to endure falling living standards while the rich get richerThe Tories are trying to distract attention from this protest against growing poverty by trying to make it an issue of growing legitimacy . So over the past few days we've had threats made to the right to organise .

The mere prospect of this has as you'd expect, got the Daily Mail licking their disgusting, greedy slavering, anti-trade union lips. "Plans intended to ban teachers and other public sector workers from going on strike are being drawn up by the Conservatives in the biggest crack down on unions in 30 years" they announce gleefully.

Eh not so fast there tax dodgers ."Ban ...public sector workers from going on strike" The Government might have some problems trying to draw up legislation on that.

Their enthusiasm for privatising and outsourcing means who is and isn't a public sector worker is more and more difficult to define. If you work for the council, or Health Board - well you are in the public sector, that's easy. What if you work for Serco who are contracted by the council? Are you public sector or private sector?

How else could they "ban" people? By occupation? Leaving aside once you get past "Nurses" and "Teachers" you'll find that across the country people doing similar jobs have differing job titles and indeed the jobs might not be identical. Good luck with writing a law that will stand up to scrutiny on that one...

Of course that isn't the only thing they might try. Yesterday David Cameron told parliament "I think the time has come to look at setting thresholds in strike ballots." He should perhaps be careful what he wishes for.

Not wanting to bother our colleagues down South they've really been very busy today we grasped the nearest ballot result to hand. In 2012 out of all the UNISON Scotland members in the NHS who could have voted for strike action 28.7% did so. Mr Cameron is Prime Minister despite his party receiving the support of only 23.5% of the elegible electorate. Indeed there isn't a single Tory in Parliament who received a 50% threshold of support.

Of course if Mr Cameron is genuinely concerned about improving turn outs in strike ballots then no one would be more receptive than Trade unions. Unions would love to see higher levels of participation in ballots, and have been arguing for years for measures that would improve things. Turn outs in postal ballots in any circumstances tend to be low but there are a variety of other measures that would certainly improve matters. Allowing unions to use secure online or telephone voting for example (Political parties use these methods for their own internal elections). Or, stop me if this seems controversial, given that an indutrial action ballot is an issue about the workplace - maybe people should be allowed to cast a vote via supervised workplace ballots.

Of course what is really bothering Cameron and his pals in the tax dodger owned press isn't how many people voted by postal ballot a few weeks ago - but how many people have voted with their feet today.

That doesn't annoy them - it frightens them.

So it should.

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