Lock-in Versus Lock-out

Lock-in vs. Commuting during a Strike

Certain variables may warrant consideration of a “lock-in” scenario upon the onset of a union strike. These variables include:

  • Location of operations
  • Availability of resources and amenities in surrounding communities
  • Anticipated level of picket line aggression

The primary purpose of a lock-in is to reduce or eliminate the crossing of the picket line by salaried workers, temporary employees, or both, by establishing on-property accommodations and amenities. Most commonly, lock-ins are a short-term solution to unruly or mass picketing (read our advice on how to prepare for picketing), and once injunctions have been put into place and are actively enforced, all personnel are able to enter and leave the facility on a daily basis.

Lock-In of Temporary Strike Replacement Workers

Strom’s experience has shown that with proper planning and preparations, lock-in of temporary workers can usually be avoided, which translates to a cost-savings for our clients and a maintained high morale of Strom employees.

Lock-In of Salaried Personnel

The lock-in of salaried personnel presents unique challenges in maintaining morale of employees, which may affect safety and performance. It is crucial in a salaried lock-in scenario that clear assumptions and expectations are communicated to employees prior to lock-in, and that additional emphasis is placed on monitoring for any adverse affects the lock-in may generate. Remember, no salaried employee may be forced into a lock-in scenario or locked-in against his or her will.

Comparison of a Strike and Lockout

Contact us today to speak with a member of our leadership team. We would be happy to share some of our experiences regarding strikes and lockout situations.

According to Wikipedia, A lockout is a work stoppage in which an employer prevents employees from working. This is different from a strike, in which employees refuse to work. A lockout is purely a company decision and may happen for several reasons. When only part of a trade union votes to strike, the purpose of a lockout is to put pressure on a union by reducing the number of members who are able to work.

For example, if the anticipated strike severely hampers work of non-striking workers, the employer may declare a lockout until the workers end the strike. Another case in which an employer may impose a lockout is to avoid slowdowns or intermittent work-stoppages. Other times, particularly in the United States, a lockout occurs when union membership rejects the company’s final offer at negotiations and offers to return to work under the same conditions of employment as existed under the now-expired contract. In such a case, the lockout is designed to pressure the workers into accepting the terms of the company’s last offer.

Local versus National Workforce – Know the Difference

The difference between hiring temporary workers from your local labor pool and a national workforce is an important consideration, especially during a labor disruption or other crisis situation. Choosing a national workforce for temporary job replacement eliminates many issues that would arise with hiring local workers. For example, national temporary replacement workers are:

  • Known commodities with proven skills – many have worked for Strom in this capacity for 5, 10, or even 15 years
  • Disinterested in local worker issues
  • Well-disciplined and used to working in a less than desirable environment
  • Drug-tested, background checked, with certifications, licensing, and related documentation verified
  • Focused and productive

From our experience, here are the main points of difference:

Local workforce

Potential family conflict and job performance – Many local job replacement candidates live in, or grew up in, the area affected by the labor disruption and could potentially have family or friends affected by the work stoppage, which can lead to a negative atmosphere in the community, especially if a family member or friend is involved. Recruiting from Strom’s national database of candidates removes this potential problem. It is also much more likely that workers will be pulled away for personal matters when they have family close by, which might negatively affect attendance or performance.

Lack of resources and industry-specific experience – With the inevitable lack of resources using a small pool of local candidates, the speed at which the replacement workers can be recruited, deployed and available for an unexpected work stoppage, decreases, as opposed to using Strom’s national database of candidates. Additionally, it is much more difficult to find local workers with not only the appropriate job qualifications, but the industry-specific work experience your company needs. Strom’s workers have experience in a wide variety of industries and job classifications.

Stressful to company management – It is crucial that management has familiarity with workers’ work habits and personalities. When working with Strom Engineering, management can work with Strom Field Supervisors who manage the replacement workforce directly. This enables an easier transition for company personnel to cope with new work habits and personalities.

National workforce

Strom utilizes a national database of 25,000 – Choosing a national workforce eliminates many issues that come from local temporary workers. Strom has access to 25,000 skilled and industry-specific experienced workers. These workers are able to hit the ground running on day one of the work stoppage. Strom’s recruiting territory is not limited to a small area, rather from all over the U.S., with exact skill sets required by our clients.

Full-time recruiters of strike replacement labor – Strom has a full time recruiting staff that recruits only people who are skilled/experienced and supportive of crossing potentially hostile picket lines. Our philosophy is to ensure our workers’ main priority is to complete the project according to the requirements by our clients.

Supervisors trained in crossing picket lines – Local workers could potentially have to cross a violent picket line risking harm to their personal property. Using Strom’s workforce, crossing a picket line is made easier by driving in Strom personnel in Strom vehicles driven by picket line trained drivers who are familiar with the logistical challenges.

Strom workforce is more efficient – Our workforce is managed by a Strom Supervisor who acts as the liaison with company management. In most cases, a Strom workface can operate a facility with one-third less the workforce it takes the company to operate it. Many of the deployed Strom workforces have worked for Strom for years and our supervisors know the work habits and personalities of the individual workers. Supervisors handle all the daily management functions, time keeping, and human resources functions. To learn about how workforces from Strom can help, read more about the managed workforces we provide.

Permanent Versus Temporary Replacements

In the United States, under federal labor law, an employer may only hire temporary replacements during a lockout – not permanent replacements. An employer may legally hire permanent replacements during a strike, unless it is an unfair labor practice (ULP) strike. If the company hires permanent replacement workers anyway, and unfair labor practice (ULP) charges are upheld, the company can be penalized and federal contracts can be cancelled.

From the perspective of a labor and employee relations lawyer, here are the differences between using permanent versus temporary replacement workers:

Hiring temporary replacement workers is an advantageous move when the company is trying to keep the current workforce:

  • Hiring temps in a labor disruption situation saves relationships
  • Temp workers are a good staffing strategy in regions where there are not a lot of local skilled workers
  • Easily replaceable and good relationship with workers

When the company and union leaders have had extremely long disagreements over make-or-break issues, and a bad relationship with employees, a permanent replacement workforce would be advantageous. To learn about advantages to bringing on temporary workforces, read our other blog post, How Temporary Staffing Can Help.

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