6321.0.55.001 - Industrial Disputes, Australia, Jun 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/09/2004   
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1 Statistics on the number of industrial disputes, workings days lost and employees involved in industrial disputes are obtained from the Industrial Disputes (ID) collection. From March quarter 2004 onwards, ID statistics are being compiled on a quarterly basis. Until December 2003, ID statistics were compiled on a monthly basis.


2 Statistics on industrial disputes are based on concepts and definitions outlined in international guidelines adopted by the 1993 International Conference of Labour Statisticians. Descriptions of the underlying concepts of Australia's industrial disputes statistics, and the sources and methods used in compiling these estimates, are presented in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0), which is available on the ABS web site.


3 Industrial disputes are included within the scope of the ID collection if the work stoppages amount to ten or more working days lost. Ten working days lost is equivalent to the amount of ordinary time which would have been worked, for example, during a stoppage of work by ten employees for one day, or, by 40 workers attending a 2 hour stop work meeting (assuming they worked an 8 hour day). Disputes which involve the equivalent of less than 10 working days lost are excluded.

4 The following types of industrial disputes are within the scope of the ID collection:

  • unauthorised stopwork meetings
  • general strikes
  • sympathetic strikes (e.g. strikes in support of a group of workers already on strike)
  • political or protest strikes
  • rotating or revolving strikes (i.e. strikes which occur when workers at different locations take turns to stop work)
  • unofficial strikes
  • work stoppages initiated by employers (e.g. lockouts).

5 Excluded from the scope of the collection are work-to-rules, go-slows and bans (e.g. overtime bans). Also excluded are effects of disputes on locations other than where the stoppages occurred, such as stand-downs because of lack of materials, disruption of transport services and power cuts.

6 In addition, if all of the employees involved in an industrial dispute resign, that dispute is deemed to be resolved and it is excluded from the scope of the collection from the date of the employment termination.


7 A list of organisations whose employees were involved in industrial disputes is compiled monthly. Disputes are identified through a range of sources, including media reports, listings obtained from industrial relations commissions, and contact with government organisations, businesses, employer associations and trade unions. Although every attempt is made to identify all disputes that occurred in the month, some small disputes may not be identified through the sources available.

8 Once all disputes for a month are identified, additional information on the nature and extent of each dispute is obtained through a mail-out/mail-back collection, usually to employers, on the nature and extent of the dispute. Some data, e.g. working days lost in a particular strike, may be imputed. Due to the imputation procedures and the limitations on identification of disputes, the statistics should not be regarded as an exact measure of the extent of industrial disputation.

9 A dispute affecting several locations is counted as a single dispute if it is organised or directed by the same organisation (e.g. a trade union) or person; otherwise it is counted as a separate dispute at each location where it occurred.

10 A dispute affecting more than one state and/or industry is counted in each state and/or industry in which it occurred, but only once for Australia in total and for the total of all industries.

11 When there is a return to work between stoppages over the same issue, and the return to work is for less than two complete months, the stoppages are counted as a single dispute. When the return to work is for two or more months, the dispute is considered to have ended at the time of the return to work. Should a subsequent stoppage occur, it is counted as a new dispute.

12 Due to the 'two month rule' explained above, data relating to disputes which ended in the quarter can not be finalised until two months have elapsed without further industrial action. Consequently the publication of data for disputes which ended during the quarter has been lagged by one quarter.


13 Each employer included in the ID collection is classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) - for more details refer to Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification, 1993 (cat. no. 1292.0) available from the ABS web site.

14 New classifications for 'Cause of dispute' and 'Reason work resumed' (formerly 'Method of settlement') were introduced in the March quarter 2004. Statistics based on the new classifications are available from March quarter 2003 onwards. In addition, the 'Duration of dispute' classification has been renamed 'Working days lost per employee involved' from the March quarter 2004.


15 Estimates from the ID collection are subject to non-sampling error. Non-sampling error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. Every effort is made to minimise non-sampling error by the careful design of questionnaires and by efficient data collection and processing procedures.


16 In addition to the changes described above for the March quarter 2004, there have been a number of previous methodological changes to the ID collection which have affected data comparability over time. These changes are discussed in Chapter 24 of Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0).


17 Users may also wish to refer to the following publications which are available from the ABS web site and ABS Bookshops:

  • Australian Labour Market Statistics (cat. no. 6105.0) - issued quarterly
  • Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership, Australia (cat. no. 6310.0) - issued annually
  • Employee Earnings and Hours, Australia (cat. no. 6306.0) - issued biennially
  • Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) - issued monthly
  • Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001).

18 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are listed in the Catalogue of Publications and Products (cat. no. 1101.0). The catalogue is available from any ABS office or the ABS web site. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the web site which details products to be released in the week ahead.


19 Where estimates have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.


20 Some data may be suppressed to prevent disclosure, either directly or by inference, of information relating to individual organisations. These data have been replaced by the symbol ‘np', but are included in totals.