Whether considering elite athletes, staff or contractors, industrial action is consistently regarded as one of the more significant risks in the sports, events and venues industries. On the 17th of August, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that rugby league players may strike over the National Rugby League’s handling of the players’ new collective bargaining agreements.

Meanwhile in South Australia, Adelaide Now declared that construction of the State Aquatic Centre has ground to a halt after sub-contractors went on strike demanding a wage rise.

Elite Athlete Boycotts

Professional athletes are often in a powerful position when negotiating pay or condition claims. They are arguably the most precious resource to the teams and sport they represent; without them, their sport and commercial stakeholders would be severely affected.

Historically, there are many examples where professional athletes have used this power to influence key decision-makers when negotiating an outcome in their interest. Examples include:

  • In 2007, AFL players boycotted Channel 7 after they claimed the network released the private medical details of two players
  • In 1972, tennis player Billie Jean King said she would not play in the US Open the following year unless prize money for males and females was made equal (and it was.)
  • The Olympic Games: the Games have been a prime target for boycotts because of the international exposure that such actions receive. The most notable incidents include the 28-nation boycott of the 1976 Montreal Games due to South Africa’s apartheid policies, and the 1980 / 1984 boycotts of the Moscow and Los Angeles Games due to Cold War disputes.

Supplier Workforce Industrial Action

While elite athlete boycotts might grab most of the news headlines, the reality is that industrial action taken by a key workforce supplier can be just as crippling for an organisation or an industry.

Consider the consequences if a state transport provider or contracted security staff were to strike on the day of a major event. As the South Australian Aquatic Centre example demonstrates, the risk is real, and, given the potential consequence of such actions, the threat cannot not be ignored.

Managing the Risk

The key to prevent industrial action from impacting too heavily on your operations is to actively manage relationships with your stakeholders. It is important to understand what issues major suppliers may have brewing in the background, and what impact possible disputes may have on an organisation.

Undertake a risk assessment to determine the most foreseeable and worst case scenarios for loss of workforce or suppliers, and develop contingency plans in advance.

Business Continuity

Business continuity planning takes into account the loss of critical business functions – for example loss of core security, public transport capabilities, or, as importantly, the loss of a main attraction. The business impact analysis section of the business continuity plan should consider each part of the business where a loss can have a high consequence to the organisation. Simple step-by-step procedures should be put in place to ensure the disruption is minimised and the recovery is swift.

The recently-published Australian Standard, AS/NZS 5050:2010 Business continuity - Managing disruption-related risk, can help to guide your organisation through the process of improving business resilience.