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Charlie Mullins: Strikes must have the backing of more than 50 per cent of union

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However, it appears there’s one thing that puts a serious dent in productivity that we could sort out immediately – and that’s strikes.

According to new numbers from the Office of National Statistics the number of working days lost to strikes has jumped by 77 per cent in a year. In 2014, 788,000 working days were lost as a result of labour disputes up from 444,000 in 2013.

This is higher than the average for the 1990s and 2000s, but, as you’d expect lower than the 1980s when industrial action was more common. 

That said, it’s still far too common for my liking, and the liking of the British economy, and that’s why I can’t see anything even slightly wrong with at least 50 per cent of union members involved in a dispute having to cast their vote in order for a strike vote to be valid.

Anything else is the tyranny of the union bosses, whose loyal foot soldiers will back them to the hilt, forcing the perhaps 80 per cent who did not vote into a strike, or face being labelled a scab.

And it’s this cynical calculation that for decades has allowed union bosses to retain power over the increasing numbers of their members who do not vote for strikes. And that’s why it must be stopped.

Strike reforms welcomed by employers' groups, but deemed "spiteful" by trade unions

If there is genuine desire amongst a membership to take industrial action it cannot be too much to ask that every second person bothers to cast a vote to strike.

Any argument from the unions that the silent majority are silent because they agree, and see no need to vote, falls because clearly under the new rules they will revert to marking a ballot paper with their previously privately held desire to strike.

And to those who continue to argue that the government was elected with 36.9 per cent of the vote (from an impressive 66.1 per cent turnout), perhaps you could ask a bookie about the difference between a two-horse race and one with a large field? Or learn to divide by a number larger than two and see what happens.

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And if people still want to argue with statistics, try this one. Len McCluskey was “elected” general secretary of the Unite Union with 64.5 per cent of the votes cast, in what was a two-horse race with Jerry Hicks who received 35.5 per cent, on a turnout of 15.2 per cent of those eligible to vote.

So McCluskey was elected by 9.8 per cent of the almost 1.5m members of his union, meaning more than 1.3m members didn’t give him their vote.

It would seem to me that the real reason the unions don’t want this new democratic approach applied to industrial disputes is because it threatens to undermine the authority of their leaders, and bring focus onto their highly questionable mandates.

This is not, as last week’s BBC headline reads, “An attack on workers’ rights’, it’s the opposite.

If you feel strongly about something you can vote to strike. If you don’t want to, don’t vote and you can’t be forced to face the ire and abuse of the militant few, who would rob you of your democratic rights. What’s wrong with that?

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