WORKERS could be allowed to cast their ballots for strike action online in future after Tory ministers were forced to make major concessions on the Trade Union Bill yesterday.
The government accepted a Lords amendment which will pave the way to e-balloting for industrial action.
The switch may help unions overcome a new 50 per cent turnout threshold being imposed on strike ballots.
However trials will be delayed for at least six months after the government insisted there first needs to be an independent review into the safety of digital voting.
Announcing the climbdown in the Commons, Cabinet Office Minister Nick Boles said: “The government has no objection in principle and we do expect that eventually statutory elections will move towards online voting.
“But we will do so in the case of trade union strike ballots when we are convinced that they are safe.”
The move was welcomed by MPs, peers and trade unions but concerns were raised that the government was effectively kicking e-balloting into the long grass.
Tory backbencher David Davis said: “There is a real fear out there that this approach is designed simply to delay the onset of online voting.”
Labour MP Dawn Butler added: “It is pointless having a review on the technology needed because the technology already exists.
“As a former programmer I can tell you it already exists and is already secured.
“Not only has it been used in various businesses and independent organisations — like the Conservative party — but it’s been used in XFactor and other TV shows.”
The government also made a partial climbdown over plans to impose an opt-in system on trade union political funds, which Labour feared could cost around £8 million in funding by 2020.
Only new trade union members will now be asked to opt-in to the political fund.
The government rejected a separate Lords amendment that scrapped its plans to cap facility time.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Trade Union Bill still poses a threat to industrial relations.
“The TUC will continue to press for further changes to this divisive and unnecessary Bill, and urges MPs to oppose it in its entirety.”