Planning is a key component of any business continuity plan focused on maintaining operations during a business disruption including a labor dispute. While many companies choose to put off planning as long as possible, our experience providing business continuity services to hundreds of companies across the US suggests that it is always better to plan well in advance the expiration of the company's collective bargaining agreement with its union workforce.
Sometimes its easy to see that there are contentious issues on the table such as hours, pay, health care, pensions, work rules and such that may lead to a possible strike. However, we also find that in any negotiation there is always a certain amount of uncertainty and associated risk that justify business continuity planning, even if it appears a labor dispute is not imminent.
Develop a clearer vision of operations
Business continuity planning is, by definition, a proactive process and should include an objective and detailed analysis of day-to-day operations, processes and workflows in order to understand normal conditions, vulnerabilities and what needs to be done in order to maintain operations in the event of a work stoppage.
Identify the right temporary employees
Finding employees with specialized skills can be difficult even in the best of times. When placed in the context of an active labor dispute environment, temporary replacement workers need to possess both the right skills and certifications, and the right attitudes if the company's business goals are to be met with a minimum of additional risk. You can find more information about our replacement workers here.
Strikes are often used as a last resort when a union wants to get a company's attention and demonstrate just how much that organization depends on its employees. A company that has a well-established continuity plan in place can gain a major edge. When employees realize that the business can and will maintain operations even if they strike, the balance of power most often will shift towards the company as the process unfolds.
Add it up
Although not ideal, it is possible to react effectively to a breakdown in negotiations with limited, if any prior planning. However, the benefits of the business continuity process offers the added confidence of knowing that you are prepared and protected against the added threats of a labor dispute.