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Better the Devil You Know, Then the One You Don’t?

February 27th, 2014 Comments off

News reports indicate UAW membership dues are down immensely. This has caused the big 3 automakers to become very nervous. What happens if a rival more militant union moves in? This could spell trouble for Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. Since the crash in 2008, management and the union have worked closely to save the industry. The loss by the UAW at VW in Tennessee was a painful defeat. They desperately need to gain a foothold into the assembly plants in the southern US.

In order to attract members there needs to be a shift in how people perceive unions. Most if not all the assembly plants that have closed were unionized.

I was at a conference last year and the presenter flashed a photo of a person carrying a sign on a picket line. He then presented a photo of an occupy movement rally along with an image of a masked anonymous social activist. What was interesting was the question the presenter asked next. How many of your children would join a social justice rally and how many would join a picket line? By a wide margin most in the group felt their children would be more likely to be involved in a social justice protest.

This is a very scary prospect if you’re in management. What would happen if activists in the social justice movement became aligned with unions? I was involved in a project where the workers were on strike and the occupy movement supported them. Within minutes of their arrival they had cameras set up streaming live video of the picket line on the web. Blogs were set up on social media within a couple of days. Two weeks later, a rally was organized where 1000 people attended.

I’m sure the union was in awe of how they mobilized. With any group there are hard-core elements. At one point this group attempted to topple the fence and gain access to the factory. Fortunately the union members stopped them. This caused a split in the ranks between the union and outside activists and they decided to no longer take part. The union realized that although it was sexy, they still needed a place to work once the strike was resolved. What might have occurred if cooler heads did not prevail? Will we see the creation of a new super union in the not too distant future?

I was in Argentina last year completing a threat risk assessment at a mining operation as they prepared contingency plans for upcoming contract talks. I found out that one union dominates almost every mine in the entire country. If they feel an employer is not being fair they can shut down an entire sector of the economy.

In Canada, it has been reported there will be one million youth unable to find work in the coming years because they do not have the skills to match job openings. There will also be close to one million jobs that will require foreign workers, increasing immigration to fill these jobs. Imagine one million angry young men and women who can’t find work protesting. Venezuela and Ukraine protests have occurred and a large number of the folks leading the charge are unemployed youth. The damage to the economy of both countries is enormous.

As unions decline what new threat might lie ahead for companies and will these new threats be even more dangerous? That’s why it may be better the devil you know, then the one you don’t.!/content/1.2548968


BC Copper Wire Theft- Replaced With Aluminum Wire at a Cost of 9 Million Dollars

February 27th, 2014 Comments off

I turned the news on today to learn that a city in BC has had enough. Copper theft is rampant and has resulted in critical infrastructure being damaged. The city has elected to remove all copper wires and replace it with aluminum. The cost is 9 million dollars. Return on investment is expected to take 8 years. There is a new crime-fighting tool called SmartWater CSI. This was developed in the UK to combat copper theft. AFIMAC Canada has brought this product to the Canadian market place. SmartWater CSI is essential forensically coded water. What this means is the water has a signature similar to DNA. It is easily applied, cannot be burnt off and can last up to 5 years under harsh weather conditions. Utilities can have their own signature which links stolen copper to their city. Police using lighting can easily detect if the wire has been coated with SmartWater CSI. Once recovered a sample can be sent to SmartWater CSI’s lab to confirm whom the wire belongs to. In the UK, some organizations use spray canisters filled with SmartWater CSI that is deployed onto unsuspecting thieves. The non-hazardous water leaves a mark connecting them to the crime. The goal is to create a strong deterrent through awareness, education and signage. The next time a thief decides to steal copper wire, they will think twice. Scrap dealers can also be equipped with lights to detect SmartWater CSI on scrap metal being brought in. If they detect SmartWater CSI they can refuse to purchase and notify the police. Making the wire difficult to sell. It also places pressure on scrap dealers to report it, as they don’t want to be found with stolen metal. Technology created to curb metal theft continues to evolve and stay one step ahead of the criminals.


Right to Work vs. No Work

February 27th, 2014 Comments off

Ontario has seen its manufacturing base crushed in recent years. The Canadian dollar rose significantly and stayed above or at par with the US dollar. Some called this Dutch disease – referring to how super charged oil prices drove up the value of our dollar and is making us no longer competitive. Employees were paid in Canadian dollars and products were sold in US dollars. With the dollar equalling $.70 to $.80 cents, profits were good. Today with our dollar hovering around $.90 we are in a better situation but most of our plants have packed up and moved. Provincial Conservatives proposed ‘right to work’ legislation in hopes of attracting more investment and jobs. This was abandoned as the concept was not widely accepted and was polarizing unions. I often read articles about protecting our current level of wages and benefits. The market has reset itself and wages of the past are simply no longer attainable. Our productivity also continues to lag behind other countries. We can’t have the best wages and be the least productive. When firms take an aggressive stand during collective bargaining why are they labelled as bad employers? In many cases these firms are successful companies operating all over the world. Is making a profit a bad thing? Often these chastised companies are fighting hard to keep and land more work for their Canadian operations

Maybe ‘right to work’ isn’t the answer. But the alternative of little or no work is much worse. This doesn’t just affect private sector manufacturing jobs. It also affects the public sector. The taxpayers that fund the public sector can no longer afford to keep incurring tax increases to support wages and pensions. Why are foreign companies prepared to purchase Canada plants and make hard decisions? It is easy to close a plant. Pay the severance and pack up and move. Those loosing their jobs, find the market conditions tough. The days of finishing grade 12 and going to the local factory with little or no skills are in the past. We need to invest in education and training of our young workers so the can earn a decent wage. Why not fix what is broken instead of tossing jobs out the window? If a new plant was built is Windsor, Ontario paying $18 per hour, there would be hundreds of employees eager to land a job. Yet if an existing company proposed concessions or productivity improvements at a plant paying $24 per hour, we quite often find that the preferred solution is to negotiate a plant closure agreement. I get it – no one wants to take cuts or get paid less. The middle class is rapidly shrinking. Investment in manufacturing is not at a level we need. We are competing in a global market place. We can’t complain about poor wages. Detroit has seen the promise of thousands of jobs in the automotive sector since ‘right to work’ has been passed. Each day we read more about investments in Mexico. Auto plants in the southern US also continue to grow. The question is what are we going to do to become an attractive place to manufacture? Mike Harris repealed the ban on replacement workers and many firms that left Ontario returned. This upset the union bosses considerably. We need to consider something bold. Each day I drive to work and pass hundreds of empty plants. Doing nothing or clinging onto what worked in the past is broken.


Duty of Care for Business Travelers to the World Cup

February 25th, 2014 Comments off

An employer’s obligation to provide a reasonably safe working environment for all employees, including when they are travelling on company business, is known as Duty of Care. Companies have a business imperative as well as duty of care obligations to protect their most valuable asset – their people. The bottom line is if you paid for the trip you are most likely responsible for the traveler. The courts will determine if you acted reasonably. In order to better understand if you acted reasonably you must assess the risk. A risk assessment will provide the information you need and should encompass the following:

  • Crime
  • Terrorism
  • Country/Region
  • Weather/Natural Disasters
  • Political Climate

The average cost for a risk assessment is $1500 to $2500 if you engage a third party provider. Once an assessment has been completed, you will be able to then develop a response plan that will meet your duty of care obligations. If we take a moment to focus on Brazil, we know the following:

  • Mass protests took place during the Confederations Cup
  • Protests continue and are often violent with police clashing with activists
  • Government of Brazil has acknowledged concerns and has stated they will provide additional law enforcement and the army in a state of readiness to respond
  • Crime rate remains high, police continue favela pacification program, which has resulted in a spike in clashes
  • FIFA has expressed concern about the games
  • Brazilian fan was killed outside a stadium this week by rival fans; attacks outside of stadiums have increased recently
  • Traffic and transportation routes are extremely congested and accidents are quite common

Based on this information and potential risks it will be extremely important for companies who are sending business travelers to ensure they have adequate security measures and response plans in place.  In addition medical response and evacuation plans will also be an important consideration.

Ensure you understand your risks and develop the necessary plans and mitigation strategies to make sure your people are protected and meet your Duty of Care requirements.


Should I Stay or Should I Go Now

February 25th, 2014 Comments off

Brazil continues to produce a flood of information regarding the upcoming FIFA World Cup such as protests, stadium construction delays, FIFA threatening to pull events from host cities, traffic congestion as well as a high crime rate. Every major event comes with its share of issues and critics. This is to be expected. Brazil’s president has come out to reassure the world that it will be ready and the country will be safe. I always worry when politicians make predictions. The additional police and army support will certainly help. What is important to realize is that a certain segment of Brazil’s people do not want the country’s money being spent on hosting the games and would see rather funds directed at health care and education. These people along with social activists are hell bent on being disruptive as possible. Clashes during the Confederations Cup left a scene of carnage on international news. Buses set ablaze, clouds of tear gas and protesters clashing with police were on display everyday.

The key question is what will happen during the World Cup? What security measures should be considered and how much is enough. What do we need to do if we have to evacuate personnel and/or guests? Having a security plan is going to be critical. Your plan will need to be able to adapt to scenarios, which will change quickly. Waiting to book security drivers and vehicles until the last minute will most likely prove costly and could leave you with less than a desirable level of coverage. I recently spoke to a group planning to attend the World Cup. They had booked hotels and airfare and completed planning their event, (all of which required a deposit or full payment up front). When it came to security they wanted to take a wait and see approach and book as late as possible. I was somewhat surprised that security was not higher on their priority list. Some wonder should I stay or should I go.


Is Organized Labour in Decline?

February 4th, 2014 Comments off

Much has been written about the decline of organized labour. The numbers speak for themselves. The volume of strikes has also slowly declined since the 80′s. The devil is in the details. Strikes, although are down in numbers, they are often much longer in duration and more complex. With management being able to continue to operate in other cities, provinces or countries the dynamics have changed. The greatest change has been technology. Products can be diverted to alternate warehouses and call centres can have calls routed off shore. In the past this would have been difficult if not impossible. Contingency planning has also evolved. Most organizations understand the risks associated with a labour dispute and develop strategies to mitigate the risk. Secondary picketing has been an affective tool unions have utilized to add pressure. These tactics will require additional planning to protect an organization’s supply chain, vendors and customers. Organizations are also increasing their focus on core operations, which has lead to outsourcing and contracting out. In the past one union dominated an entire work force. Now you might find numerous contractors supporting a client’s operations alongside unionized employees. In some cases these workers are unionized and in other cases they are not. You would think this would make surviving a strike an easier challenge. Keep in mind these workers will often have to cross picket lines, as they are not part of the bargaining unit on strike. Security and transportation plans will need to be put in place to ensure the safety and security of those workers that are required to attend. Developing contingency plans and mitigation strategies can be a complex task. Having a well-resourced plan is key to your survival. As with any risk, the key is having critical timelines and resources allocated to execute if required.


Has the Way People Protest Changed?

December 31st, 2013 Comments off

As the number of work stoppages decline there is a new trend emerging. Activists in the past would set up picket lines to promote their cause at the entrances of facilities where they work. Secondary picketing became the norm a few years ago with protesters targeting suppliers and clients.

We are now seeing protesters target board members at their offices and executives at their homes. Investors and the groups financing these firms are also being targeted. Protests no longer have borders. Activists will travel globally to raise attention for their cause and your next tradeshow or board meeting is all fair game.

As companies globalize, activists have changed their game. No longer can they just target a single site. They are now hitting the tentacles that connect the businesses that are involved.

What does this all mean? You will need to have a contingency plan that includes a security response appropriate to cover all potential threats. In addition, any crisis communication will require a well thought-out strategy.

Protesters and striking workers will protest wherever they feel their cause will receive more attention and will place additional pressure on those who might influence the outcome.


The Supreme Court

November 21st, 2013 Comments off

The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down a portion of Alberta’s privacy legislation, saying it violates a union’s right to free speech. The heart of the matter is the union videotaping workers crossing picket lines. The courts have indicated it is fundamentally an important part of a union’s freedom of expression in the context of a labour dispute.

The devil is always in the details. For the past 25 years I have assisted clients in the management of labour dispute situations. I truly don’t believe videotaping anyone crossing or just standing on a picket line is the real issue. Quite often videos or pictures are uploaded onto social media with the individuals crossing the picket lines along with their name and personal information such as phone numbers and home address. In addition to this, these individuals are branded as scabs. I’m not sure how a manager who has little choice whether they cross a picket line or not, is a scab. They are obligated to go to work. These videos and photos have little to do with free speech and are more often than not designed to create fear and intimidate those crossing. Union members seeing these videos and photos often become enraged and begin to target these individuals at home, hockey arenas and in the general public. Management has to protect its workers from potential threats and violence under various health and safety legislation. In the past, there has been success in having videos and photos removed from the Internet because a line was crossed.

During a dispute last year in Ontario union members photographed and videotaped management and salaried personnel daily as they were transported across picket lines. Management was advised not to videotape or photograph pickets on the line as it would inflame union members and add unnecessary tension. Despite our recommendation, a senior member of management elected to take videos of threats being made. A bus crossing the picket line was surrounded and blocked by union members until it was agreed that management would no longer take video and photos. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander. Management should and must have clean hands. How they deal with striking employees is as important as a company’s brand and relations can be harmed if they mistreat workers who are on strike.

Now that the union has won the right to video tape and photograph those crossing picket lines, they too must ensure that this is not abused. Emotions run very high during protests and strikes and I would encourage both sides to develop some ground rules in advance to ensure rights of workers are not trampled on, as well as protecting the safety and security of those being photographed.

If tomorrow a video is posted on Facebook identifying someone as a scab and then a hard-core activist elects to take action, what will be the fall out?


Retail Crowd Control

November 21st, 2013 Comments off

As the Christmas season moves into full swing, retailers will need to ensure crowd control measures are in place. Security and loss prevention personnel will be tasked with many additional duties and crowd control cannot be over looked. Over the past few years we have seen situations where a lack of crowd control resulted in serious injuries and in some cases even death.  Before extending hours or offering discounts you should review the anticipated size of the crowd. How long will people be asked to wait in line? The longer people wait, the more angry they will become.  Do you have enough merchandise to prevent a massive rush? How will you notify shoppers when products have run out? What types of products are being offered? If you are selling Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, you are most likely to attract a young male demographic. How will line-ups be handled to avoid a crowd surge against doors or barriers which can cause injuries? Make sure you have a contingency plan in place and your front line staff are aware of the plan and training has been provided. If additional security or loss prevention personnel are being sourced ensure they are well versed in crowd management and have experience. One wrong move by security can be perceived as heavy-handed and spark a mob mentality. Protecting your customers, employees, assets as well as your reputation and brand are of critical importance. Careful planning will be important to your success and your customer’s experience.


The Next Time You Craft an Email, Pretend the Whole World is Looking At It

November 5th, 2013 Comments off

Recent leaks by NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden have painted a pretty scary picture of the level at which our email, text messages and phone conversations are being monitored. I don’t believe the US is the only country in the world actively engaged in monitoring data. I’m all for protecting our security but I think it may have gone way beyond its intended purpose. Let’s forget about the government side of this story and focus on private sector companies. No longer can AGM’s senior executive meetings and correspondence be considered 100% safe. Could your next merger or acquisition not be a big secret? How might this affect your brand, strategic plans for the future as well as safety and security of the company’s most important secrets? Physical security as well as technical surveillance countermeasure sweeps will need to be improved. The Internet and cell phones were designed to improve productivity and create efficiencies. Have they become vulnerability? In addition to physical security measures, companies must also consider robust policies and procedures to protect information. Many firms have policies but are not being followed as intended. Protecting your information has become a lot tougher. How many employees follow guidelines on carrying and safe handling of laptops and smart phones? Go to any busy bar and you will easily hear high-level conversations regarding sensitive company information. This problem obviously isn’t just contained to email and phone conversations. Even your cab driver might be all ears as you speak on your cell phone. Surveillance to gain competitive intelligence is out there and being utilized. Travel managers, security personnel and corporate event planners need to work together to ensure you and your information are protected.

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