THE NUMBER of ballots for industrial action has doubled in the last year, according to a new TUC report. The Trade Union Trends survey found that unions organised 983 ballots between June 1999 and May 2000 compared with 464 in the 12 months before.
Some 95 percent of workers voted yes in ballots for strike action, and 91 percent in ballots for action short of a strike. Union leaders translated only a third of all ballots into action. Where action did take place it was largely successful. In 53 percent of cases unions won some demands, and in 37 percent they won all demands. The biggest reason for balloting for industrial action was pay-44 percent of ballots.
Longer working hours and worsening conditions were the next most common reasons for balloting. The TUC figures are estimates, as the report states that "some unions do not have precise figures".
The Communications Workers Union estimates that it has conducted over 400 ballots. The report reveals that trade union members are willing to take action and will vote for it, especially when there is a strong recommendation from their leaders for action.
It also shows that trade union leaders see ballots for strike action mainly as a tool for negotiations and are reluctant to call the kind of action that can win outright victories quickly. However, union leaders are being increasingly forced at least to threaten action. That does not sit easily with the image of partnership between bosses and workers that we are told now dominates workplaces in Britain.