ABOUT THIS PUBLICATION
This publication presents information on the number of disputes, employees involved, working days lost and working days lost per thousand employees for disputes involving stoppages of work of 10 working days or more. The statistics are classified by State, industry, duration of dispute, cause of dispute and method of settlement. Separate tables for the above variables are included for industrial disputes occurring during the year and for industrial disputes which ended during the year. Some of the tables in the publication contain a time series for the perid 1993 to 1998
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
Disputes which occurred during the year
In Australia, there were 729 industrial disputes recorded in 1999, involving 460,900 employees and resulting in 650,400 working days lost.
The number of working days lost increased 24% on the 1998 figure of 526,300, but was still lower than the 928,500 working days lost in 1996. The number of working days lost per thousand employees increased from 72 in 1998 to 87 in 1999.
The number of employees involved in industrial disputation (directly and indirectly) during 1999 was 32% higher than the figure recorded in 1998 (348,400).
Disputes which ended during the year
Of the 721 disputes which ended in 1999, 50% involved less than 100 employees, and 87% involved less than 400 employees, but resulted in 26,700 (4%) and 151,500 (23%) working days lost respectively. Only 2% of disputes involved 3,000 or more employees, but these accounted for 361,400 working days lost (56% of the Australian total).
Almost half of all disputes (358) resulted in less than 100 working days lost, but they involved just 28,600 employees (6% of all employees involved). There were 12 disputes which each resulted in 10,000 or more working days being lost, and these involved 263,900 employees and a total of 401,600 working days lost.
On average, 897 working days were lost per dispute ending in 1999, compared to 1,192 in 1998. This decline is consistent with the decrease in employees per dispute ending (down from 777 in 1998 to 632 in 1999).
States and Territories
New South Wales recorded the highest number of disputes in 1999 (272), followed by Victoria (239) and Western Australia (124). The increase in the number of disputes between 1998 and 1999 in Victoria (up 74%) and Western Australia (up 59%) was quite pronounced. The number of disputes in Victoria in 1999 was the highest recorded since 1986, when there were 260 disputes. Western Australia recorded its highest number of disputes since 1992 (134), but at the same time, recorded its lowest number of working days lost (43,400) since 1994 (27,400).
Of the 650,400 working days lost through disputation in 1999, almost half (316,500) were recorded in New South Wales, with a futher 34% (218,200) in Victoria. New South Wales recorded an increase of 68% in the number of working days lost between 1998 and 1999, despite an increase of only 25% in the number of disputes. South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory all recorded a decrease in the number of working days lost between 1998 and 1999.
The number of employees involved in disputation was highest in New South Wales (211,400), and this was the highest level recorded by this State since 1991 (867,900). There were 168,100 employees involved in disputation in Victoria. Together, New South Wales and Victoria accounted for 82% of employees involved in disputation. It was also these States that recorded the highest increase in the number of employees involved in disputation between 1998 and 1999 (up 47% and 37% respectively).
The number of working days lost per thousand employees varied widely across Australia. New South Wales recorded the highest rate (126), followed by Victoria (116). In contrast, there were just 2 working days lost per thousand employees in Tasmania, and 3 in the Northern Territory. The national average was 87.
The industries with the highest number of disputes in 1999 were Construction (247), Manufacturing (208) and Mining (89). However, in terms of employees involved and working days lost, the highest incidence was recorded in the Education; Health and community services industries (149,900 employees involved and 224,100 working days lost from just 40 disputes).
Within the Manufacturing industry, industial disputation was concentrated in the Metal product; Machinery and equipment industry (101 disputes; 71,800 employees involved and 104,200 working days lost). Industrial disputation in the Mining industry was heavily concentrated in Coal mining, accounting for 81 disputes, the involvement of 19,800 employees and 26,000 working days lost.
During 1999, disputation in the Education; Health and community services industry in New South Wales accounted for 204,300 working days lost, or 65% of working days lost in that State, and 91% of working days lost in that industry across Australia. In Victoria, the majority of working days lost were recorded in Manufacturing (125,500) and Construction (63,400). Disputation in the Construction industry, as a percentage of total working days lost in the State, was also significant in Queensland (34,000, or 65% of working days lost) and Western Australia (30,900, or 71% of working days lost).
The number of working days lost per thousand employees varied considerably between industries, with the highest rates recorded in the Coal mining industry (1,445 working days lost per thousand employees), followed by Construction (381) and Metal product; Machinery and equipment manufacturing (282).
The number of working days lost in the Coal mining industry has declined considerably since 1996, when there were 7,171 working days lost per thousand employees. Between 1998 and 1999, there was a decrease of 47% in the number of working days lost per thousand employees in this industry, from 2,732 to 1,445. The number of working days lost per thousand employees also decreased considerably between 1998 and 1999 in the Construction industry (down 27%) and the Transport and storage; Communication services industry (down 63%). In contrast, the number of working days lost per thousand employees increased substantially in the Metal product; Machinery and equipment industry (up 297%) and Education; Health and community services (up 189%).
Cause of dispute
Across all industries, the majority of disputes were caused by managerial policy. In 1999, managerial policy caused 425 disputes, 388,300 working days lost and involved 181,900 employees. This accounted for 60% of working days lost, a slight decline from 62% in 1998, but overall there has been an increasing trend toward a higher proportion of working days lost due to managerial policy since 1994, when the figure was 31%. Managerial policy includes enterprise bargaining, and hence includes issues such as wage increases where they are part of enterprise bargaining.
Disputes due to "Other" causes resulted in 135,800 working days lost (21% of total) and involved 175,000 employees, but came from just 25 disputes. "Other" causes include protests directed against persons or situations other than those relating to the employer/employee relationship.
Disputes about wages (as the sole cause) have become less significant in recent years. In 1997, 24% of working days lost were due to disputes caused by wages, but this declined to 6% in 1998, and the 1999 figure was 7%. However, it is important to note that these are disputes caused by wages only, and disputes occurring as a result of enterprise bargaining which may include wage issues are likely to be included in disputes caused by managerial policy.
Method of settlement
The main method of settlement for disputes that ended in 1999 was resumption without negotiation. One half of disputes (357) were resolved in this manner, and a further 189 (26%) were resolved by negotiation. The disputes that were resolved by resumption without negotiation had resulted in 427,900 (66%) working days lost and involved 387,600 (85%) employees.
This page last updated 8 December 2006