Headlines: January 22nd, 2003

Trade union ballots and elections could soon be conducted using e-voting methods following a campaign by union officials. UNISON, the public service union has played a leading role in the moves to see the end of legal restrictions on e-democracy in union affairs.The government is currently reviewing trade union legislation as part of its wider e-voting plans. UNISON General secretary Dave Prentis wrote to Alan Johnson, the employment relations minister, claiming that allowing electronic voting would increase participation in union ballots. At the moment it is prohibited by law.

An online poll, currently hosted at www.unison.org.uk/edemocracy shows 95% of voters are in favour of e-democracy for trade unions and Mr. Prentis called on the minister to support amendments to the Employment Relations Act 1999 to allow for electronic balloting in statutory union elections. The idea already has the support of the government’s Better Regulation Task Force.

In his reply the minister says the issue of statutory ballots is being actively considered. “I know some unions have undertaken successful experiments using the internet in non-statutory ballots and opinion surveys. This is fully in line with the government’s desire to encourage new methods of voting, and it’s good to see unions trailblazing the use of new technologies,” he writes.

Mr. Johnson said it was important to ensure that all those entitled to vote in statutory ballots were given the opportunity to do so but said access to the internet, security concerns and the effectiveness of e-democracy had to be more fully explored.