How to get the vote out in a ballot

A new guide to getting the vote out during industrial action ballots is due to be published by PCS.

The booklet contains practical information on how to maximise turnouts, and achieve convincing wins, by aiming for ‘supermajorities’ of 80% or more on both fronts.

It focuses not only on procedural preparations for a ballot – such as accurate record keeping – but on achieving “emotional readiness” too, by ensuring members feel confident about voting and by listening to the concerns of those not yet convinced.

While the guide is being designed to help branches prepare for an industrial action ballot, the advice is good practice for year-round union building.
To help inform the guide, reps are being asked to tell us about their own experiences of maximising turnout – what works and what the challenges are. If you haven’t responded yet, please do so here.

For a branch to be ‘ballot ready’, the guide says they need to have done three things:

  1. updated membership records so we can comply with the legal obligations on notifying employers of an intended ballot. Includes ensuring we don’t have members registered at long-closed workplace addresses.
  2. ensured we have multiple means of communication available to speak to members, including personal emails, mobile phone numbers, and a network of union advocates in every workplace.
  3. engaged with members so that they feel confident in the union, understand the case for industrial action and recognise their crucial role in the decision-making process.

It emphasises that everyone in the union should aim high – not simply for the “bureaucratic threshold” of a 50% turnout.
“If we only achieve the 50% turnout, it indicates to the employer that we have a problem, but if we hit a supermajority, it indicates that they have a big problem,” the guide will say.

Systematic planning
To win on such a scale requires every branch devising a systematic plan, well in advance of a ballot being called, which could include: ‘phone banking’ sessions of early evening phone calls to members; a series of workplace meetings, and a plan to ensure every member is spoken to.
Achieving ‘emotional readiness’ includes strategies such as getting members working together to demonstrate that support for action is a ‘majority’ position – for example with a giant petition protest like the one PCS is planning on 30 April.

A schedule to ensure that every worker (not just our members) is spoken to one-to-one about the dispute, before any ballot, should also be in place in branches. Once the ballot is agreed there should be ‘get out the vote’ plans at national, regional, and branch level.

The guide also gives examples of evidence-based ways to test the ‘mood’ and strength of the union in a workplace. Examples include asking members to take selfies with PCS posters, take part in an online survey, or all sign a petition within a couple of days.

Creating a year-round ‘union culture’ at work, that builds trust in it, is crucial to winning any ballot, and is one of the reasons behind the Union Advocate programme, says the guide.

Get involved:
Remember to respond to the questionnaire - click here.

Find out more:
‘Getting ballot-ready on pay comes first’

‘Signing up more Advocates is key to building PCS’

Updated 12 April 2018

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