Changes to industrial disputes series


Monthly Statistical Bulletin Feature Articles

For decades the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has collected statistics on industrial disputes and published them monthly in Industrial Disputes Australia, ABS Catalogue 6321.0. Selected data from this publication have been available for many years in this Monthly Economic and Social Indicators (MESI) publication and more recently in MESI e-data available on-line for people connected to the parliamentary network. These data are available from 1959.

The ABS monthly publication ceased in December 2003. It was replaced with a quarterly publication only available electronically and showing data from the March quarter 1985 (ABS Catalogue 6321.0.55.001).

Industrial disputes

The ABS defines an industrial dispute as ‘a state of disagreement over an issue or group of issues between an employer and its employees, which results in employees ceasing work. Industrial disputes comprise strikes, which are a withdrawal from work by a group of employees; and lockouts, which are a refusal by an employer or group of employers to permit some or all of their employees to work’.

Only disputes that amount to ten or more working days lost are included in the statistics.

Many industrial disputes data series are available, including a new measure that shows days lost due to enterprise bargaining. However, MESI publishes just two indicators of industrial disputes—working days lost and working days lost per thousand employees.

Working days lost

Working days lost includes those working days lost by employees involved directly in disputes and by those stood down because of disputes. There are no changes in definition between the old monthly series and the new quarterly series. The quarterly series are simply aggregations of the (now no longer available) monthly data. Thus annual totals remain the same. Figure 1 shows working days lost each quarter since the March quarter 1959, quarterly data prior to March 1985 being calculated from the now discontinued monthly data series.

Figure 1. Working days lost due to industrial disputes

Working days lost per thousand employees

This measure is an attempt to remove the effect that a growing workforce has on the size of the figures—a larger workforce will have more disputes and more working days lost, all other things being equal.

The monthly figures produced until December 2003 and still available on MESI e-data show working days lost per thousand employees for the 12 months ending in the reporting month. Hence it is the sum of 12 months of working days lost data divided by the number of employees in the period multiplied by 1000. Employees, of course, does not include employers or own-account workers.

By contrast, the new quarterly figures show for each quarter how many working days have been lost per thousand employees in that quarter. These latter figures, therefore, are about one quarter the magnitude of the old figures produced from monthly data. For technical reasons it is not possible to use monthly data to calculate this data series for the time before 1985.

Figure 2 shows quarterly data for working days lost per thousand employees since the start of 1985.

Figure 2. Working days lost per thousand employees

MESI Table 1.8

Monthly Economic and Social Indicators Table 1.8 shows:

  • quarterly data on working days lost due to industrial disputes
  • annual totals of working days lost and
  • quarterly working days lost per thousand employees.

Quarterly data on working days lost per thousand employees are graphed to show the movement in the series over the past few years.

MESI e-data Table 1.8

For reasons explained above, MESI e-data quarterly series for industrial disputes begins with the March quarter 1959 for working days lost and the March quarter 1985 for working days lost per thousand employees. Monthly data, though no longer being updated, are still available as e-data from January 1959 to December 2003 for working days lost and from December 1981 to December 2003 for working days lost per thousand employees. These data are available for people connected to the parliamentary network.

1. ABS 6321.0.55.001, Glossary.

This feature was prepared by Greg Baker

 

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