30 January 2014
London mayor Boris Johnson has said there is a “good chance” the Conservative Party Manifesto for 2015 will include tougher restrictions on union balloting practice, which will make it nigh impossible for workers to strike.
Boris told The Times that he would like to see unions disabled from taking action unless at least half of their members vote for a strike – regardless of turnout.
Currently, members have a choice on whether they wish to vote on industrial action, and some may decide to abstain.
The decision to strike or not comes about according to the preference of the majority of those who do decide to participate in the ballot. This is exactly the same situation as a general election or another political vote such as the wholly unpopular competition for the placement of police commissioners.
Under Boris’ new rules, the number of members who choose to vote in union ballots will significantly affect the outcome for workers, and if a large number of members decide to abstain or miss their opportunity to vote, the union will not be able to take action.
It is unlikely the Tory mayor would consider similar rules for political parties, as it would make his Party significantly less likely to take power.
The national vote for the election of Police Commissioners, dreamed up by the Coalition, managed a tiny 14.9% turnout. Meanwhile, fewer than 50% of the electorate voted at the 2010 General Election in five major constituencies, including Manchester Central, Leeds Central, Birmingham Ladywood, Glasgow North East, Thirsk & Malton and Blackley & Broughton.
In 23 other boroughs, less than 55% of the electorate voted, making it extremely unlikely that 50% of the entire electorate would vote for the same party.
Were Boris’ rules imposed on political elections, no MP would win a seat in these areas.
More importantly for Mr Johnson, perhaps, the 2012 London Mayoral Election, which he won with only 44% of the vote, attracted just 38% of the electorate. Had his dream restrictions for unions been in force, he would never have had a shot at the position he now holds.
How does a man whose leadership was opposed by the majority of Londoners who turned out to vote dare to tell unions that a huge majority of voters must back all strike activity?
This highlights why such a policy would be viewed as extreme were it applied any ballot, but the Conservatives are determined that trade unions should toil under much harsher rules than any other organisation.
Boris told the Times: “This is something I wanted the coalition to do from the very beginning. We haven’t been able to do that and I’m reconciled to that now.
“Maybe it will be in our manifesto. I think it would be good if Dave put it in. I think there’s a good chance he will.”
Downing Street insists that no manifesto policies have yet been drawn up, but a Cabinet Office spokesperson was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: “The question of thresholds for strike action is kept under review … A future Conservative Government would certainly want to look at the legislation on industrial action to ensure that our businesses and critical services are secure.”