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Archive for the ‘Labour Disputes and Plant Closures’ Category

Article by Vito Mangialardi CBCP PMP, featuring images from AFIMAC

March 10th, 2016 Comments off

Article by Vito Mangialardi CBCP PMP, featuring images from AFIMAC.
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Article by Corporate Counselor: Managing Security Risks During Labor Disputes

September 17th, 2015 Comments off

Steve10

Managing Security Risks During Labor Disputes

By: Peter Martin

September 2015

Every company with union workers faces the risk of a labor dispute. Identifying any business risks and then managing them is a priority for executive decision makers who must ensure that the company delivers its promises to stockholders, customers, and employees. The process is well defined in business terms:

• Risk identification, including assessing and tracking existing risks and identifying new ones;

• Risk assessment, including charting probability and consequences;

• Risk prioritization, including decisions to accept, avoid, control, transfer or monitor the risk; and

• Risk mitigation, including planning and implementing strategies for handling medium- to high- risk events.

When this risk involves labor disputes, the stakes are high. The potential for disruption of operations, lost customers, and damage to the corporate brand cannot be overlooked. Without a well-defined strategy on how the company will function during a labor dispute, the event can result in business disruptions that threaten to shut down daily operations, potentially forever.

Preparing an Operating Plan

A company with a union contract that is about to expire will plan for negotiations, but executives who do not expect or plan for problems (or blindly accept risk) weaken their bargaining position. When a company employs unionized workers, its risk-mitigation analysis should take into account the concept of foreseeability: knowing whether the negotiations will involve concessionary agreements on potentially contentious topics, whether language issues or economic factors. But even if the probability of highly antagonistic bargaining is low, the decision not to be prepared is itself a recipe for disaster. If something goes awry and there is no strategy, the business impact can be overwhelming.

A proactive strategy for dealing with potential labor disputes is needed to mitigate the risk to the organization from a business perspective as well as a legal standpoint. From the latter perspective, the company may be allowed to lock out employees, for example. But that action could be a significant risk from a business standpoint; the company may be unable to hire replacement workers to maintain operations, or skittish clients or customers may decide to do business elsewhere.

The operating plan, then, must be based on a business decision that identifies what level of risk the company is willing to accept. The decision can be facilitated by a risk matrix that weighs scenarios on a scale of high risk/high probability, and low risk/ low probability as well as cost versus time. Once this matrix is fleshed out, the decision-makers can decide what level of risk they are willing to assume from both a business and legal standpoint. That decision will then determine the measures the company either will or will not put in place.

Considerations Before A Labor Dispute

Community Perceptions

Recently, a healthcare facility on the West Coast endured a three-day strike, which resulted in the need to hire more than 70 security personnel and a public relations firm to manage the situation. The effect on patients and healthcare workers required the facility to adjust its services. While the employees returned to work and continued to negotiate, the healthcare facility had to mitigate negative perceptions from the community.

Continuation of Service

The strategy for managing a labor dispute should include operating plans for continuing to service customers needing products or services, as well as a security plan for protecting assets and those individuals continuing operations during the event. By sharing that strategy with stakeholders, it helps them understand that the company is preparing a professional response to a difficult challenge.

Part and parcel of such a plan is identifying ways to move raw materials onto the premises or finished goods from the facility through its supply chain to customers. Experience shows that customers lost during a labor strike are very difficult to win back. Whether the executive team plans to continue operations at 50%, 80% or 100%, they need to make the right choice on how they are going to fulfill customer needs.

Picket Lines

Also during a labor dispute, suppliers or other third parties may have issues crossing a picket line. Communicating in advance is the best way to plan for this potential. “Early communication with your suppliers’ legal representative to lay out the landscape, address issues and formulate a plan can help minimize potential disruption to your supply chain,” says Ruthie Goodboe, Shareholder (Pittsburgh/Detroit Metro), Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Steward, P.C. “The National Labor Relations Act (the Act) provides certain protections against secondary boycotts designed to keep neutral employees from being dragged into a labor dispute. It is important for all parties to understand both the protections and limitations under the Act in these situations.”

Actions to Keep The Business Open

Define key positions that would need to be filled by another resource to meet the production schedule. Plans should include identifying which members of the management team will be on the premises during the strike. It is also important to protect company property or trade secrets that could be at risk from striking workers, sympathetic managers, or opportunists during a labor dispute. However, “in light of recent decisions from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on policies and practices relating to issues such as confidentiality, access to property, and the definition of protected concerted activities, employers would be wise to review these trends when developing their labor dispute strategies,” says Goodboe.

Recognize that during a labor dispute, some members of management may sympathize with or support employees in their actions. Based on that knowledge, the executive team may decide to limit access to certain areas of the property or to sensitive information, strategies and documents. Building a team of managers who are strong company supporters long before a labor dispute will help mitigate the potential for internal losses. That team should meet in advance to set clear job responsibilities and establish lines of authority and communication.

Parameters must also be set on how visitors will be handled, how individuals who are withholding their services or are picketing will be treated, and how employees who are working in the facility will be accommodated. An awareness program for this group of employees will help them understand what to expect, especially if they have not been involved in a labor dispute before. This training not only helps the employees, but it also underscores senior management’s commitment to their well-being by helping them to stay out of harm’s way or advising them to avoid a situation that could escalate as a result of their actions.

Security

It is imperative that onsite security officers be trained to understand the rights of all parties involved. “There are limits on what security officers can do in terms of monitoring activities on the strike line,” says Goodboe. “The use of videotaping, while useful in collecting what could be necessary evidence of misconduct, implicates claims of unlawful surveillance.” Security officers do not need to become experts on the National Labor Relations Act or local statutes, but they should be briefed on what can and cannot be done by a security officer to limit the organization’s overall exposure.

Once again, reminds Goodboe, “the company must take into account the NLRB’s recent rulings that expand protection for conduct not obviously viewed as protected. This is especially important in determining what, if any, disciplinary action should be taken for misconduct on the strike line.” Procedures should be put in place so everyone knows how information on potential misconduct will be collected, preserved, and communicated since often decisions as to the company’s response may be deferred until after the labor dispute.

Legal Options

In anticipation of potential strike issues, part of a well-crafted response to any labor dispute is reviewing the legal options available. For example, as part of the response plan, an employer’s legal team may want to prepare fill-in-the-blank pleadings in case it is necessary to seek injunctive relief quickly, says Goodboe. Court ready evidence that can be used to support such action is extremely critical. The security staff must work closely with the legal team to keep information flowing. Of prime importance are reports written when an activity occurs, and documentation of illegal picketing. When physical evidence is collected, both security and legal personnel must make sure that the chain of custody is protected so it is admissible in court.

Actions During a Labor Dispute

Once a strike occurs, the security part of the proactive strategy will shift into action. Transportation services should be available for managers working in the facility as well as those who are hired temporarily and must cross the picket line. Extra protection for executives at work and at home should be offered, especially if the negotiations become contentious.

Management has definite responsibilities and tasks to perform during the strike. Any investigation should not be deceptive or covert, but should take advantage of security equipment already on site. Many may have the urge to monitor social media for useful information during a strike, but the law limits how that monitoring can occur and what can be done with information discovered. Care must be taken not to violate the rights of striking workers. Otherwise an employer may find itself defending unfair labor practice charges long after the dispute is over.

After the Dispute

A petrochemical company in the Southwest experienced a strike that lasted seven months. The company spent resources on security and logistical support services, and its production capabilities were also affected. While the final agreement was not much different than the original offer, the company experienced reduced production, reduced revenue, and strained relations with the hourly workforce that required repair.

Once contract negotiations are settled, management can take certain steps to start putting the issues behind them and to help ensure that they don’t recur. The executive team must also work to restore the relationship and trust between the employees and the company. Experts on this matter feel that any lingering bitterness between the parties should be resolved quickly and advise that focusing on business usually gets everyone back to normal.

If questions of employee misconduct during the labor dispute arise, the executive staff should review their original bargaining plan and goals before making any decision on whether or to what extent such behavior will be addressed. The company will want to review all options and evidence depending on the type and severity of the misconduct. In the case of minor infractions, management may feel no action is warranted or it may want to look for ways to reconcile the behavior in conjunction with the union. For more egregious acts, an employer may feel disciplinary action is required. Either course of action must be weighed against the current legal environment as well as the post-bargaining climate.

Employers should consider two questions: What are the expectations for the business are going forward, and what is the most beneficial path the company can to take to get there? Whichever course of action is chosen, coordinating the process with the human resources, security, and legal departments will better position the company to either move forward under the new contract or appropriately defend the necessity of disciplinary action.

Of course, training is the key to infusing appropriate management techniques and conflict resolution strategies into any corporate culture regardless of the existence of a labor dispute. Without a doubt, risk mitigation strategies are extremely important when working to avoid labor conflict. Executive management must acknowledge that risks will occur and that plans for mitigation are needed up front.

Additionally, in post-incident evaluations, the management team must realize that a labor dispute is not necessarily a defeat. It can simply be a business interruption that must be anticipated and dealt with appropriately. By identifying risk cues and triggers, the executive team can forestall labor incidents that can lead to work stoppages and can analyze mitigation options. Looking at an event through realistic hindsight, management can turn a seemingly negative event into an opportunity to improve performance, expand capacity, and become more flexible.

When viewed through this prism, the risk of a labor dispute will be valuable learning experience.

Peter Martin is the CEO of AFIMAC Global. He is an international security practitioner, having worked extensively in both the North American and overseas markets. Beyond his experience in the international security industry, he is a subjectmatter expert in crisis management, use of force, threat/risk assessment and personal and physical security measures. He can be reached at pmartin@afimacglobal.com

HRCI Credits

October 24th, 2013 Comments off

AFIMAC Online Training is running a limited time 50% off promotion for all courses through until Halloween October 31st.  Please note several courses meet the criteria for HRCI credit.  Click here to review courses.

Value of a Court Injunction

August 15th, 2012 Comments off

Excellent information provided by Joe Schollaert when asked about the value of a court injunction during a labour dispute.

Watch more Video Q & A here for Canadian content and here for the US content.

Contingency Planning vs. Spam Filter Error

August 9th, 2012 Comments off

After months of planning, AFI International and IMAC announced their merger to AFIMAC on August 1, 2012.  There are lots of things to consider when rebranding such as business cards, websites, old hyperlinks, social media pages, etc.  Everything seemed to have switched over smoothly.  I had even sent an email out to Peter Martin letting him know everything was alright around 2pm that day, mentioning that unless any unforeseen hiccups came up…we had nothing to worry about.

Well, there was an unforeseen hiccup – a BIG one.  Every outgoing email that was sent by any staff was ending up in spam filters and not reaching the intended recipient.  But why!?  Our IT and creative department got on it.

After drilling down, we realized that spam companies globally had flagged our new URL.  It had so effectively been keyword targeted that I’d class it right up there with emails that get flagged for ‘Free Viagra Pills’.  As best as we can pin point why, spam filters didn’t know our new URL until August 1st, and so when we emailed the news of our merger to our large client database, it flagged it as spam – even though we’d never had issues sending mass email announcements previously.

So regardless of why, we had to make some major changes quickly.  The IT and creative team did an excellent job to get things corrected, but it was something that nobody reviewing our prelaunch could have predicted.  We were able to make massive change quickly because we had contingencies in place that if we had to completely go in a different direction, we were ready.  We didn’t think we would need it, but having that continuity plan in place was a huge benefit.

Having several backup plans was key, much like strike or disaster planning, but the real lesson learned was that we have no control over what rules and regulations spam companies use and even if we did, they can change at any time.

Q & A: Labour Disputes, Work Stoppages and Other Topics

May 30th, 2012 Comments off

AFI, by way of Insights Under Two, has released the first of several Q & A videos that will field questions that our experts are asked on a regular basis.  Questions like ‘How many security guards are required for a labour dispute, ‘Why is a court injunction so important during a labour dispute’, What are the rights of picketers during a strike’, ‘Can a company operate during a labour dispute’ and several more.

These short video clips allow for a viewer to quickly obtain answers they may have leading up to a labour dispute prior to contracting strike security and contingency planning services.  I’d encourage anyone approaching a potential work stoppage to contact AFI for a Free Contingency Planning Guide at least three to six months out – as Jim Rovers discusses in the clip ‘How soon should a company prepare for a work stoppage’.

There are also videos related to investigations coming soon.

Videos can be watched here.

IMAC Helps Keep Businesses Operating During Unanticipated Disruption

May 25th, 2012 Comments off

By: Ohio Chamber of Commerce

When the International Management Assistance Corporation was founded in Marietta, Ohio, in 1983, it offered only support and security services for companies that were experiencing a labor dispute. Whatever the challenge was, from protecting assets to protecting executives, IMAC could handle it.

Over time, the company has expanded and in addition to its original premise, has become a turnkey operation to help a company that is facing any type of business impact — whether it is a natural disaster, industrial accident, plant closure or temporary labor service.

But one matter that hasn’t changed is the company’s home state. IMAC is located and headquartered in Strongsville, Ohio.

“We are trying to drive the kind of ‘buy Ohio’ initiative needed and keep the money in the state of Ohio,” says Senior Vice President Joseph Schollaert.

Customers, though, come from across the globe. More than 5,000 have been assisted since the company was founded.

“We’ve also just recently launched IMAC Global, which provides our services in South America and Mexico,” Schollaert says. “We also have a Canadian operation, AFI International, that is headquartered in Toronto and handles any Canadian work for customers.”

As for the majority of IMAC’s customers, they come from the manufacturing sector. A number are Fortune 100 companies, but IMAC serves both small and large clients.

“A company can contract with us on a per-event basis or have a North American agreement that covers multiple locations where they could engage our services based upon a specific event,” he says. “Our efforts have helped these companies prepare for business disruptions caused by labor disputes that threaten to shut down daily operations, potentially forever.”

IMAC can provide mobile kitchens, dormitory units, shower units and laundry facilities. “We have the capabilities to prepare meals — we have prepared meals for not only labor dispute situations but also natural disasters and environmental situations,” he says.

One of the added values of working with the company is it follows trends and reports them to clients so they can better know what issues may be ahead.

“We as an organization have to understand the needs of our customers and what is driving them for the next two to five years down the road — for instance, what legislative items are out there that are going to impact our customers,” Schollaert says. “This is one of the best ways for us to stay in tune with what is happening, not only in the state but with our clients, and help develop proactive solutions. And with that, we also are able to provide the Ohio Chamber with an additional resource for their members by being a member.”

As a member of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, a company will receive preferred pricing from IMAC.

Another of the core services IMAC offers is supplying temporary workers to assist during an event.

“We can provide an organization that might be experiencing some type of business interruption and/ or temporary production spike with workers to continue to operate their facility — skilled trades as well as unskilled personnel,” Schollaert says. “There is a shortage right now for skilled trades, and we’ve got a large database of personnel that we have accumulated over the past 27-plus years.”

In addition, about a year ago, IMAC started offering physical and online training.

“We have an online training site that is geared toward security and human resources professionals that hosts a myriad of different topics,” Schollaert says. “About 30 different training modules are on our online training academy where someone can log on, purchase the online training module and take it at their own pace. They also get continuing education credits for completion of those modules as well as certification once they have completed the training.”

Workplace Violence in the NFL

April 18th, 2012 Comments off

Absolutely the NFL is susceptible to workplace violence.  Keep in mind everyone from the players to the doctor to the water boy are employees of a team and staff of the stadium teams play in are also open to violence.

There have been player fights during games and practices:

The San Francisco 49ers can’t seem to get along during practice. In the middle of a ball security drill, cornerback Shantae Spencer nailed linebacker Ahmad Brooks. Everyone seemed to laugh about it, but Brooks didn’t think it was funny. The linebacker got up, hit Spencer in the head and the two started to fight.

Fans have pelted players and staff with objects:

During a game between the Cleveland Browns and the Denver Broncos at Cleveland Stadium, officials had the teams switch end zones in the fourth quarter to protect Denver players from batteries and other objects being thrown from the Dawg Pound.

Fans have had fights in the seats that inevitably involve security staff:

Fans of football Bay Area rivals, the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders, got into a brawl at a recent preseason game between the two teams.

With the NFL releasing the 2012-2013 schedule, I am looking forward to seeing what Peyton Manning will do for the Broncos with the exit of Tim Tebow, but I also couldn’t help think of the recent Bountygate issue that has been a hot topic in the NFL lately.  How is that for a case of workplace violence?  Imagine it in an office setting.  A manager requests that an employee targets a competitors employee to inflict pain or fear so they cannot perform their job duties.  Workplace bullying most definitely.

Thank you to HRmarketer!

February 23rd, 2012 Comments off

I received an excellent email this morning – I had won an iPad from HRmarketer after sending a tweet about their SocialEars service that we have been utilizing for IMAC and AFI and was entered into a draw.

While conducting marketing research for services related to our IMAC Labor Dispute and Work Stoppage conference, our Online Training Academy and services related to strike security we had used the SocialEars service.  It has paid off in more ways now with the iPad win!

The iPad will surely come in handy for our Creative Department to ensure compatibility on all client systems while developing our latest social media investigations, capability videos and other marketing media.

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