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Utilising trade unions in business continuity management to create resilience: A South African perspective

Cliff Ferguson (Strategy Policy and Business Continuity Management, Government Pensions Administration Agency, Pretoria, South Africa)

Continuity & Resilience Review

ISSN: 2516-7502

Article publication date: 31 May 2019

Issue publication date: 6 September 2019




Trade unions are the political arm of the working class, economically active masses, whilst industrial action is a demonstration of the will to reach their objectives. However, the crippling of systems through such contradicts business continuity. Yet, the opposite is true for a natural disaster that traumatises the union member and has a direct impact on their well-being. Inculcating a service continuity and resilience in government, with trade unions as majority stakeholders, may be a challenge. Moreover, it is further complicated by the African perspective, which will become prevalent in the author’s deliberations, as the trade union landscape is open to revolutionary Marxism, Socialism and Capitalistic precepts and concepts. Testing the problem and solutions with the period model produces evidence that purports a future praxis for business continuity management (BCM) that involves trade union representatives and their members. Ultimately, trade unions, cumbersome as they may seem, have much to offer as far as human resources, mass membership, knowledge and skill are concerned. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


An action learning approach linked to the period model to answer five research questions, namely: What is the actual modus operandi of trade unions with regard to business continuity and resilience?; What is the actual interest of union representatives in the understanding and implementation of BCM and resilience standards and concepts?; What would be required to utilise trade union platforms for the purposes of BC induction and awareness?; How will BCM certification for trade union stewards affect or impact on their industrial actions or campaigns?; How can the BCM fora develop a theory and possible praxis, to involve trade unions as part of the business continuity and resilience programme of an organisation?


The findings are as follows: the period model works as an agent of action learning. The likelihood of trade unions to participate in business continuity outside of labour action is commendable. Trade union representatives are keen on being certified as BCM practitioners. BCPs are inclined to fail with industrial action when involving trade union representatives. The BCM Policy and ISO 22301 standards bring about a good understanding of the roles of BC practitioners and union representatives in a crisis period.

Research limitations/implications

Research was limited to the pilot site, i.e. The Government Pensions Administration Agency – South Africa.


The paper brings about a new dimension to a business continuity programme, where the trade unions are no longer an interested party but rather they become active members of a business continuity team.



Ferguson, C. (2019), "Utilising trade unions in business continuity management to create resilience: A South African perspective", Continuity & Resilience Review, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 36-46.



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