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Government decision on online balloting - demanded by unions - 'is imminent'
Unions also want improved trade union rights before they support Brexit deal
But critics warn allowing electronic votes would increase the prospect of strikes
Ministers are poised to offer a big concession to trade unions over online strike ballots as part of a package to win their backing for Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
A decision by the Government on whether to introduce electronic balloting, a key demand of the unions, is imminent, and could come as soon as next week, they say.
Unions have demanded improved trade union rights, including online ballots, as the price of their support for the deal.
But critics have warned that allowing electronic votes would increase the prospect of strikes because it would become easier and cheaper to ballot union members. There have also been concerns about the security of online balloting.
The imminent announcement follows weeks of negotiations between union bosses and Labour MPs in Leave-supporting areas.
Labour sources familiar with the talks said ministers had agreed the move in principle, although a government source played down the prospect of an imminent announcement.
One Labour MP in a Leave-voting seat said: ‘I’m looking for reasons to vote for the deal.’
Currently, unions are restricted to holding postal ballots and are not allowed to ballot their members in the workplace or online.
This hampers turnout and is a cumbersome way of collecting votes, making it more difficult for unions to take industrial action.
Yesterday it was also revealed that ministers are putting together a £1.6billion fund to help deprived areas after Brexit.
They have wooed Labour MPs in the Midlands and the North with the prospect their towns could share in the bounty.
But the Prime Minister yesterday confirmed that ‘towns across England’ would be able to apply for support once the fund is established later this year.
Ministers have agreed a fund of £1billion, with £600million in reserve. It will focus on improving infrastructure in the hope of boosting ‘left behind’ areas whose economies are in decline.
The Government, which hopes to win the support of up to 40 Labour MPs for Mrs May’s deal, is also working on a package to guarantee workers’ rights and environmental standards after Brexit.
Four Labour MPs have separately confirmed that there is likely to be a concession on electronic balloting. A Labour source said of the package: ‘This will be the most comprehensive Bill on workers’ rights ever delivered by a Tory government.’