Friday, November 23, 2012

Are You Ready For A Workstoppage or Strike?

Are you ready to manage a labor dispute, whether your employees are unionized or not?

Labor disruptions have been few and far between in recent years. In 1990, according to the annual ICM Crisis Report, just over 10-percent of crises that year involved labor disputes and strikes.
The most recent annual ICM Crisis Report for 2011 indicated 8-percent of all crises were labor related and that number was the same in 2009 and 2010.

Union work stoppages of 1,000 employees or more hit an all time low in 2009 with just five work stoppages.  The first 10 months of this year, there were 13 significant work stoppages.

Walmart was the focus of major work disruptions approaching the "Black Friday" holiday shopping period.  Our Walmart which has been trying to unionize Walmart employees claimed there would be demonstrations at 1,000 North American Walmart stores, but late Friday a company spokesman claimed there were only small demonstrations at 26 of the company's 4,000 US stores, and an estimated 50 employees participating.

At mid-November nurses were striking at hospitals operated by Sutter Health in California, and several thousand employees at Hostess Brands had triggered a shutdown of the maker of Twinkies.

American Airline pilots have been disrupting that airline's flights for weeks.

Every company with more than a handful of employees should have a section in their crisis plan to help if/when a work stoppage or slow-down hits.  The plan should spell out:

           1.  At what point management and supervisors can no long keep the business operating
           2.  Who will speak for the organization
           3.  What steps the company will take to deal with violence
           4.  What and how to communicate with vendors and customers
           5.  And, a commitment to maintain calm during the strike or work stoppage, never forgetting that most strikes end and you will want to be able to resume reasonable working relationships with everyone involved

A wildcat walkout can be more disruptive and damaging than an anticipated every three year contract renewal dispute.  Working cooperatively to resolve disagreements and new contracts should always be the goal, but when something goes wrong with that idea, having a plan is essential

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