Appendix E

Voting in Unions

Much has been said about the desirability of having secret ballots in unions for all decisions which affect the public. Why not indeed? The reason is not hard to see. Union leaderships have not wanted them either - they would reduce their power.In many cases the leaders have represented the views of the more aggressive members of the union. But decisions, to 'stick' in the longer term, need to be subject to the genuine agreement of the membership.

The claim is that secret ballots are too long-winded because members would have to be given a postal ballot to encompass the whole membership. But when a decision is made in a meeting by a show of hands, there is no concern about the views, or votes, of members not present. There is no good reason why a ballot of members at a meeting should not be held, for any decision affecting the public, or for decisions concerning the members for that matter. If the attending members are sufficient for a final decision by a show of hands, then they most certainly are also sufficient for a decision by a secret ballot in the meeting. In any case, this would more accurately reflect the actual views of the members present, and many more will attend when they know they have a minimum unimpeded input to the meeting, through the use of the ballot. The new possibility of fair decisions, by ballot, would also certainly encourage the airing of dissenting views in the meeting.

The real challenge is for government which can achieve all-round justice in the workplace, and have the kind of public respect to enable it to successfully deal with any difficult problems which may arise. Only real democracy in our government system will enable real justice to prevail, with reasonable consideration for all aspects of the problems involved. Broad-brush decisions, made for 'political' reasons, are not good enough. 'Politcs' in government and in unions destroys justice. The left wing activist who said we want leadership, not democracy, made the point clear. No right wing politician could have said it better. Democracy requires serious matters to be decided by the members not by 'leaders'. We need the secret ballot in unions and in parliament.