Summer of discontent revisited

The summer of discontent revisited

Last year I wrote an article entitled Summer of Discontent and I was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t happen. Unfortunately, if the current industrial unrest is anything to go by, I was a year ahead of my time!

In that article I said the following, “Since the middle of 2008 there have been increasing problems facing the UK and global economies and the beginning of this year [2009] started to reveal some of the knock-on effects these problems are having on the average citizen in the UK. History shows how these events have an impact on policing and these issues could be some of the most challenging that the UK police service has faced for many years. Taking the lessons from the past and evaluating current events the following is our analysis of why all of the elements are coming together to make the forthcoming summer of 2009 [now 2010] the ‘summer of unrest’.

There is no indication that the British Airways dispute is going to be resolved. Civil servants have staged two strikes already and more will come. The rail workers are taking strike action after Easter and gas workers are threatening to go on strike. As a general election approaches all politicians are admitting that there will need to be cuts in public service spending. Fuel prices are rising again, with the knock on effect this has with the increased price of most goods, especially food. Many people have taken pay cuts in the last twelve months and any reduction in their quality of life combined with the pressure of increased living costs is not going to be popular. Although interest rates have remained low, the number of people struggling to pay their mortgages has not significantly declined and banks are still carrying toxic-debt.

In my previous article I referred to the policing issues that arise from this. To reiterate the current ones:

  • Financial concerns in families lead to an increase in the incidents of domestic disputes and domestic violence.
  • When homes are repossessed, historically there are increased calls from bailiffs for the police to be present to protect them. There is no reason why this will not continue this time.
  • As soon as people feel vulnerable in their employment they come into conflict with management, which can lead to industrial disputes, just as we are seeing now.
  • Whenever unemployment rises there is an increase in crime, particularly dwelling burglaries and benefit fraud, which are all occurring now.
  • Businesses that close down create empty properties that become the target of vandalism.

I pointed out that the last major industrial disputes in this country were in 1984 and 1986, with the countrywide miner’s strike and printer’s dispute at Wapping respectively. A difference with our current society is that we now look for someone to blame. This is mainly because of the issues I explained in the article, from the sub-heading ‘We’ve never had it so good’ onwards. At the end of that article I said that the “benefit for the police in times of recession is that politicians recognise that they are going to need the support of the police. Consequently they do whatever they can to retain that support.

My apologies, as that is no longer true, which could have an impact on how the police respond to industrial disputes; assuming they are not involved in one themselves.

I firmly believe that NOW is the time for every organisation to review their Business Continuity Plans (assuming they have one) and start asking themselves a few questions:

  • How good is our Business Continuity Plan (BCP)?
  • Could any of the current and potential industrial disputes have a detrimental effect on our business?
  • Are we sure that we have a plan to carry on business if there were an interruption to the energy supplies at our regular site?
  • Do we have an engaged workforce who would actively look for ways to assist us in continuing business in times of difficulty?
  • If our employees belong to a union which is likely to strike, what are our contingency plans?

The recent disruption to businesses due to the severe adverse weather should have been a good indicator as to whether your organisation has a good BCP or not.

Finally, I hope that I continue to be wrong in my prediction. Even if I am only partially right, businesses who think about these things now are more likely to remain successful than those that leave it to chance.