Sometime is early July Shannon Creighton, a young lady in Canada, posted a note to a LinkedIn group headlined Looking for Strike Action/Job Action Advice!. The complete message is as follows:
- My company if facing strike/job action in the next 24 hours. We have a very comprehensive plan for all our mission critical functions, our Emergency Operations Centre is set up and operational, we have the redeployment list for all management and out of scope staff and all Communication key messages and templates have been built.
My question is to anyone that has been through strike/job action....are there any lessons learned from your experiences that you would like to share with me????.
Unfortunately for Ms. Creighton, no one read her post until I somehow stumbled across it on the 24th of July - well after the strike threat passed (one hopes).
I asked Ms. Creighton for an update. I'm still waiting for that.
But because of my response, LinkedIn flagged the exchange and other people offered their opinions not, alas, directly answering her query but taking the topic in a slightly different direction.
One responder commented that "Responding to strike action is a delicate subject. Very often, well certainly in the UK, the response has to be a suspension of business for the duration of the action because you can't simply replace striking staff.
"Consider something like public transport. If their drivers go on strike you can't simply call in more drivers (firstly because there aren't any but also) because not only would you end up with further union action but you would be in breech of all sorts of health and safety regulations."
A gentleman from Africa joined in noting "in the context of my experience you need to have a good exercise that proves the adequacy of your preparedness." He added "In the case of public 'transport strike', a contingency plan that caters for continuity of operation is often handled by an "outsourcing of drives", that can be called in to take over. ... Did you consider all possible scenario strike actions and tested. Therefore, lesson learned can only be drawn from your special experience?"
The first responder countered by answering the second responder thus: "In the case of public transport, and here I was thinking more of trains and the London Underground service, you can't have an outsourced workforce ready to take over. In the first place there isn't an organisation that has people with the required skills, insurance cover, Public Service Vehicle licenses etc. Furthermore, I would think if the management even suggested a replacement workforce to disrupt their opportunity for strike action, the union would make you test that plan quicker than you might like, with a strike."
Neither responder - nor did I - directly admit to having strike experience.
But reading on to the first responder's second post, I was taken aback by his remark that
- "I think we all have to recognise that business continuity doesn't mean you will be able to keep your operation running under any circumstances. Sometimes we may just have to let events take their course and industrial action can be one of those where we hope the action is short term or negotiations happen quickly."
Point 1: "I think we all have to recognise that business continuity doesn't mean you will be able to keep your operation running under any circumstances."
If business CONTINUITY is not to keep business in continuous operation - that is, meeting a minimum level of service - what IS "continuity."
Merriam Webster Online Dictionary's first two definitions for "continuity" are (see http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/continuity)
- uninterrupted connection, succession, or union
- uninterrupted duration or continuation especially without essential change
The "key word" in both is "uninterrupted."
Point 2: "Sometimes we may just have to let events take their course and industrial action can be one of those where we hope the action is short term or negotiations happen quickly."
Shades of the British Airways fiasco. Many will recall that BA did nothing to mitigate a threatened walkout by its caterer (vendor) when it could have sought out an alternative, back-up provider to keep its passengers fed.
Those who followed the work (in)action will recall that BA's baggage handlers went on a sympathy strike with the caterer's crew. Unfortunately, unlike the old American telephone company, apparently BA managers were unable or unwilling to load luggage. But, given that there was no food available for the passengers - at least at LHR (BA has no operations at other UK airports??), perhaps it was just as well. Things got worse before they got better, and all because one vendor failed to meet its minimum level of service agreement.
Both the gentleman from Africa and I agree that accepting a risk as inevitable and doing nothing to mitigate it is NOT "business continuity."
I've seen this "it can't be helped" attitude from UK planners in the past (the BA strike).
This is NOT the attitude of any U.S. practitioner I know and, based on the exchange with the gentlemen in Africa, not on his turf, either. Is it unique to the small island?
Our English planner, who happens to be a senior consultant with a name organization, apparently is not alone in his "hunker down and hope for the best" approach to - well, I cannot call it business continuity - we'll just call it "planning."
Meanwhile, I'm still curious. What did Ms. Creighton learn with her brush with a strike.