Unison, the largest public sector union in Britain, announced the results of its biennial national executive council elections at its June annual conference.
One result it may not be keen to announce is the turnout – a 25 per cent drop in participation compared with the 2013 elections, with an average turnout of 5.6 per cent across Britain.
This means that 94 per cent of the membership did not take part. Abstention is a conscious act, not apathy. And the ballot was before the general election, so there will not be the excuse of demoralisation following the Conservative victory.
The legislation covering ballots pre-dates electronic balloting and is frozen in the 1980s, but irrespective of the process or system, the members have consciously decided to abstain.
When ballots were held in the workplace returns were significantly higher. Back in Thatcher’s era the Tories screamed foul and the law was changed to require ballots to be sent to home addresses – beginning a spiralling decline in participation over the last 25 years.
With the government about to set a threshold for industrial action ballots of a 50 per cent turnout then it is only a matter of time before they challenge the mandate of trade union leaderships elected on such a pathetic turnout.
What mandate does a 5.6 per cent NEC have? Who do they represent? Unison members need to start organising for the 2017 NEC elections now.