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Are you prepared for industrial action?

The South African miner’s strike has come to an end, concluding the country’s longest ever industrial strike. The miner’s union went on strike in January and through 5 months of marches, protests and talks finally secured a wage increase. Halting work at the platinum mines caused the South African economy to contract by 0.6% and strangled the platinum market.

In the same week holiday makers were stranded and delayed when French air traffic control went on strike. Ryanair were quick to denounce the action and called for strikes by air traffic controllers to be banned. No doubt the airline suffered a great deal of pressure and expense due to the strike.

We’re no strangers to strike action here either. Tube workers, teachers, nurses, doctors and fire fighters have all left their posts and raised their placards over the years. Next month we face industrial action again when the National Union of Teachers walks out.

While these workers have every right to strike to express dissatisfaction they are also aware that the more disruption they cause the greater the impact of their strike. Other businesses suffer too. What would you do if a major service in your area went on strike? Would it make a difference if that strike lasted weeks or months?

Continuity strategy for strikes

Your business continuity plan should include contingencies for strikes. Assess the risk of strikes and how these might affect your business.

  • Is your supply chain affected?
  • Can your staff get to work?
  • Is it economical for staff to come in to work?
  • Is it safe to allow staff to come in?
  • What options are open for changing work patterns? e.g. changing shifts
  • Will your clients and visitors be able to come to you?
  • Does the strike affect parents?
  • What additional costs will a strike incur for you?

Asking these questions will yield the information you need to start planning for a variety of problems. Survey your staff, asking them how they think an upcoming strike will affect their ability to get to or complete work.  Recognising the risks and understanding the potential impact for your business will lead you to the solutions.

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