A leaked letter from Business Innovation and Skills minister Nick Boles to Oliver Letwin and Chris Grayling shows the government is considering some ″concessions″ in order to ensure the Trade Union Bill is passed in the House of Lords.
The letter, dated 26 January, suggests that the government is worried that the threshold provisions for strike ballots will not be passed in the House of Lords. They propose to commit to conducting a review into allowing the use of electronic ballots for strikes, something the TUC and most unions have made a prominent part of their campaign against the bill.
This does not mean that e-ballots will become a reality. There is currently no time-frame on when any such review must report and no guarantee it will report in favour of e-ballots. Boles says in the letter ″I would not propose that we should also announce the period in which the review would report, although I expect us to come under pressure to do so.″
Tellingly the letter says ″there are areas of the Bill where we could make changed …. without significantly defeating its primary purpose.″
This is a clear response to the TUC′s campaign, which largely focussed on the need to e-ballots and the hypocrisy of the government allowing e-ballots for the Conservative party mayoral selection but not for unions. However the pitfall that always existed in this tactic has now come to bite us, we may be given e-ballots as a way of passing all the rest of the attacks on our class in the bill.
Our movement shouldn′t, and should never have, suggest we are anything but opposed to the Trade Union Bill full-stop. We are conceeding to the government meddling in our unions′ democratic processes.
The letter also suggests that the government may remove the requirement for picket supervisors to wear an identifying armband and provide their details, but the shift of illegal picketing to being a criminal offense not a civil one.
E-ballots or not the campaign against the Trade Union Bill must continue.
• Read the leaked letter: bit.ly/TUbillleak
• Unite adopts policy of defiance on Trade Union Bill: bit.ly/TUbillunite