Britain again faces the threat of mass walkouts by public sector workers. These are set to begin as early as November and could run indefinitely.
The GMB has stated that “we're not talking about a day out and a bit of a protest, because this is going to require days of action running through the winter, through into next year right into the summer."
Given this kind of warning, it makes sense for organisations to take a look now at how they intend to cope rather than waiting until events outstrip their ability to respond and recover when it does happen.
A small amount of consideration and planning now can avoid a great deal of headaches further down the line.
Proactive companies will already be thinking about how these walkouts may affect them specifically. School closures, transport disruption and lack of other public services upon which employees depend may result in increased absenteeism, supply chain disruption and reduced availability of goods and services.
Organisations would do well to take a look now at their work from home arrangements, transport arrangements, communication options and other potential opportunities to manage through such disruption.
They should question the level of confidence in their ability to handle the effects of strikes, and where plans and arrangements are already in place for this kind of event, check to see when they were last rehearsed.
Where organisations may not have specific business continuity or response plans in place to deal with Industrial action, they can draw on existing plans which are tried and tested. Many companies created plans for mass absenteeism in preparation for pandemic flu. Transport disruption was a significant factor during the severe weather last winter and companies can draw on this experience to prepare for industrial action.
At the very least, businesses should understand their key business processes, the likely impact of the disruption both to these and to the resources or services upon which they depend – particularly where organisations are heavily dependent upon extended supply-chains.
That said, with all of this discussion happening about a potential, rather than an actual, event it is important that organisations do not overplay this particular risk. There needs to be a level of pragmatism in the approach taken and a constant review of the developing situation will help inform any required response.
Regardless of what eventually takes place it is certain that it pays to be prepared. Even if industrial action is avoided other events can and will take place that can affect organisations in very similar ways; preparing simple and straight-forward business continuity plans well in advance is always a worthwhile investment.