Tips for reducing strike impact on business

Janine Davies, Tri-Cities Chamber Chair

As a Chamber of Commerce, we are a service-driven, policy-making organization with a purpose to connect, educate and advocate on behalf of our 900+ members. Our membership is diverse and represents a cross-section of industries in our community. With the first day of school approaching and a continued strike for teachers across the province, parents, educators, children and employers are all concerned, waiting to see if children will be heading back to school on time and if parents will be able to get back to work.

Now, over two months into the strike, employers are starting to wonder what their businesses are going to look like in September if kids aren’t back in school. More than 68% of our Chamber membership represents small business owner-operators. Of that group, more than 50% are micro-business owners. According the BC Stats, a small business is defined as a business with fewer than 50 employees, and a micro-business is defined as a small business with fewer than five employees.

What does a strike mean for business?

Many employers can expect a decrease in productivity in all work environments. Where some businesses see September as the last push in the year to achieve outstanding goals and objectives to increase their bottom lines, some companies may end up struggling to staff their locations. Absenteeism, unplanned holiday time and unpaid leave requests will increase if parents are unable to find safe, licenced and affordable childcare solutions. Some employees may find no alternative except to bring their kids in to the office. So, instead of focusing on results, or that report with a tight deadline, employees will be ensuring that their kids are entertained and staying out of trouble while juggling a phone, a pen and a juice box. If you work from home, you might find yourself taking a break for a quick lunch, but feeling obligated to feed your kids and the three friends they have over. When you business is between one and five employees, losing one or two employees for a few days a week will have a significant impact on your business.

But a long-term strike can affect more than productivity and efficiency. Household income and the income spent on our local businesses will be impacted as well. According to the 2011 Census and the 2011 National Household Survey, 44.3% of households in B.C. have children. A quarter of those families (10% of households) are single-parent families, most of whom work full-time or multiple part-time jobs. With an increasing trend in the number of dual income family households, and with 89% of income in those households resulting from employment, a failure to reach aggreement will mean a good chunk of household income (approximately 40% of income during one of the busiest months of the year) will be lost to parents staying at home or paying for childcare. In some cases, single parents could lose 100% of their family income if they aren’t able to work.

When people can’t get to work and when people lose income to spend, our communities and our businesses suffer.

What can we do to minimize the impact on business?

– Scale back operations. If employers can anticipate the drop in productivity from employees and budget around the effects of decreased productivity, they will be in a better position in the long run to meet demands for their products or services.

– Encourage and support rotating childcare days. If employees band together to take turns taking care of each other’s children, a great deal of stress will be lifted off the shoulders of employees looking for childcare, and you can maximize the attendance of your employees at work.

– Work from home. While home isn’t the ideal place for some people to work, look for opportunities to telecommute.

These are just a few temporary solutions to a larger issue that will cause ripples across our local and provincial economy. The only long lasting solution will depend on the disputing parties sitting down and negotiating a solution. While each party met with mediator Vince Ready on August 13, a media blackout policy has been implemented and no further updates are available. The province has created a website as a resource for concerned parents or you can access the BCTF’s position at bctf.ca.

For the sake of our children, our community, and our economic wellbeing, we at the Tri-Cities Chamber hope to see the Province and the BCTF working together to find a negotiated solution that represents all parties’ interests.

Janine Davies
Chair, Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce