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Connect Meetings Magazine "Contingency Plans Key During Strikes" article



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Connect Meetings Magazine "Contingency Plans Key During Strikes" article

  1. 1. 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 years. 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
  2. 2. should cover. “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 strikers.” Related Stories: • Manage Risk: Create a plan • Be Prepared • Road warriors beware