The government proposals on thresholds for trade unions are undemocratic

The government has just published plans to require minimum turnout in trade union strike ballots. The Trade Union Bill would require a threshold of 50% turnout for any strike ballot to be successful. If the strike affects core public services, in addition, at least 40% of eligible trade union members must vote in favour for the strike to go ahead.

Minimum voter turnout requirements are undemocratic. Thresholds artificially inflate the number of “yes” votes required, and stifle debate as supporters of maintaining the status quo do not need to win the argument, but rather must only convince eligible voters to stay at home. 

We have produced a briefing on the use of turnout thresholds in referendums, supported by case studies of their use in Italy and attempts at applying these in the UK. These lessons are applicable to the current government scheme to introduce turnout thresholds for trade unions.