Connect Meetings Magazine "Contingency Plans Key During Strikes" article
http://www.rejuvenatemeetings.com/2010/11/16/contingency-plans-key-during-strikes/ November 16, 2010
Contingency plans key during strikes
As a meeting or event planner, it’s your job to try to anticipate every possible scenario or
disruption that could impact your event, from power failures to airline shutdowns. But one
disruption that’s often hard to predict is a hotel or convention center strike.
Last month, nearly 3,000 hotel workers went on strike against the owners of Hilton hotels
in San Francisco, Chicago and Honolulu. The strikes, which lasted from three to six days,
followed coordinated one-day walkouts in September at Hyatt hotels in Chicago and
Honolulu, as well as Los Angeles and Toronto. The national Unite Here hotel workers labor
union says the strikes are in protest against cuts in health care benefits and raises despite
projections that hotel revenue and occupancy will continue to rise during the next few
If recent strikes are any indication of potential disruptions they cause to meeting or events,
there’s good news for planners. Everything remained “all systems go” for the events
planned at these hotels during the strikes, according to the properties’ general managers.
“Most hotels have contingency plans in place so that their staffing levels aren’t affected by
strikes,” says Michael Dunne, general manager of the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.
His hotel’s contingency plan includes hiring temporary workers and bringing in managers
from other hotels in the city or nationwide. “We remained fully staffed. The goal for us is to
maintain service, so we have a good backup plan in place,” says Dunne.
Dunne acknowledges, however, that even if a hotel or convention center is able to remain
fully staffed, a strike can cause other types of problems for event planners and attendees.
“Whenever there’s any kind of disruption at a facility, including a strike, this can be a
distraction for meeting and event attendees.”
Picket lines, for example, aren’t exactly a welcoming sight for meeting attendees. People
can feel uncomfortable when approaching a facility that’s being picketed, and if the meeting
group is union-based, the situation gets even trickier. “Groups with union employees may
be especially sensitive about walking across a picket line,” says Dunne.
Philip Farina, CPP, board-certified hotel and travel security expert, and CEO of Farina and
Associates Ltd., says the key to being prepared for the potential distractions that may
come with a hotel strike is creating your own contingency plans. “This plan should be in
writing. Otherwise, you’re just reacting.”
A strike contingency plan should be part of an overall plan that covers other potential
meeting and event disruptions, Farina adds, such as acts of terrorism or natural disasters.
Event staffing, transportation and security are three of the primary areas such a plan
“Find out ahead of time who else outside of the hotel or convention center can provide the
employees needed to staff your event,” says Farina. As Dunne said, most facilities have
their own staff backup plans, but, “It’s still a good idea to arrange for your own backup in
case you need it,” says Farina.
Also look into your options for transportation in case you need to shift your meeting or
event to another location. For example, if attendees staying at the original hotel need to be
shifted to another facility for the event, you need to plan how attendees will get there as
safely and efficiently as possible. “You can’t assume the original hotel will take care of these
details for you,” says Farina.
While rare, it’s possible for violence to break out along picket lines, so Farina also
encourages planners to talk to the hotel’s security manager about their plans for keeping
attendees and guests safe in these situations. “Urge your attendees to focus on just getting
into and out of the facility and not to pay attention to what’s going on with picketing
• Manage Risk: Create a plan
• Be Prepared
• Road warriors beware