Technology and the Trade Union Bill
With the controversial Trade Union Bill currently making its way through parliament, I’d thought I’d have a look how unions can use technology to help minimise the impact.
50% turnout thresholds on strike votes
One of the biggest issues with the bill is the requirements for 50% of those being asked to strike to vote in the ballot. Some employers may use this as an opportunity to avoid strikes if they are aware of quality issues with the union’s membership data. As a result, it’s never been more important have up-to-date and accurate membership information. Some steps that can be taken include:
- Make sure members can update their details online and provide regular encouragement to do so through emails and promotions.
- Ensure members can update or at least report changes in their employer details through their union website. Any gaps in employer information will now have a bigger impact.
- Carry out data analysis on the membership system to find gaps in employer and contact details, and then target these members to gather information.
Check-off in the public sector
Some union members pay their subscriptions through a system called ‘check-off’, which involves collecting union subs direct from a salary. One of the proposed changes is to end this system in the public sector, which could result in a significant reduction of union members. Technology can help reduce the impact on unions. For example:
- Analyse the membership database to clarify which members could be affected and target them for switching to direct debit.
- Build a facility on the website that allows members to change their payment method from check-off to Direct Debit.
- Email the members who need to switch with a personalised email taking them directly to this online form with their details pre-filled.
- Use a tablet and mobile friendly responsive design, and create a version of this form that reps and officials can use directly with members on a tablet in the workplace.
Frustratingly, an amendment would be required to the bill to allow secure workplace ballots using online and electronic voting.
This approach is already being used by some unions when workforces are asked whether they want to be represented by a union, and this type of facility would make it much easier to increase participation in strike ballots. With this omission, the purpose of the new turnout thresholds is even more questionable.