6102.0.55.001 - Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Aug 2006  
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Contents >> Methods >> Business Collections >> Chapter 26. Industrial Disputes Collection

Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods was originally released in 2001 in both electronic and paper versions (cat. no. 6102.0). The paper publication will not be rereleased. However, the web version (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001) is being updated on an ongoing basis. This chapter was updated on 08 December, 2004.


26.1 The ABS has been collecting information about industrial disputes since 1913. The Industrial Disputes Collection produces quarterly estimates of the number of industrial disputes (where ten or more working days are lost), employees involved, and working days lost. The data are used to support analysis and monitoring of industrial disputation in Australia.


26.2 Estimates from the collection are released quarterly in Industrial Disputes, Australia (cat. no. 6321.0.55.001), available free from the ABS web site. The publication contains a small number of summary tables, with more detailed tables being available as electronic spreadsheets through the ABS web site, AusStats and ABS@, or on request. Prior to March quarter 2004, the publication (cat. no. 6321.0) was issued monthly.

26.3 A number of series are produced from the collection, for disputes which occurred during the period and for disputes which ended during the period. These series include:

    • number of industrial disputes
    • number of employees involved
    • number of working days lost
    • number of working days lost per thousand employees

26.4 Disputes which ended during the period are further classified according to:
    • cause of dispute
    • working days lost per employee involved
    • reason work resumed

26.5 Estimates are cross classified by State or Territory and industry.

26.6 Estimates are compiled according to the concepts and definitions outlined in
Chapter 13.


26.7 Industrial disputes are included within the scope of the Industrial Disputes 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.

26.8 The following types of industrial disputes are within the scope of the Industrial Disputes 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).

26.9 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.

26.10 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.


26.11 Detailed information about each identified dispute is obtained using a mail-out/mail-back collection methodology. Information is generally obtained from employers and, in some cases, trade unions and/or employer associations.

26.12 The collection reference period is the calendar month, but data are compiled on a quarterly basis only.

26.13 Telephone follow-up and some written reminders of outstanding returns are undertaken after the due date.


26.14 The statistical units for the collection are organisations involved in industrial disputes.

26.15 The frame is compiled monthly and comprises all organisations whose employees were involved in disputes during the month.

26.16 A number of sources are used to identify industrial disputes, including: Media Monitors; Reuters Business Service; union magazines; Australian and State Industrial Relations Commission Hearings Lists; and reports from government authorities. In addition, lists of organisations regularly involved in disputes are maintained.


26.17 It is not always possible to identify all the organisations involved in a dispute, particularly in large disputes. When this occurs, other bodies which might be able to provide the information, such as trade unions and employer associations, are contacted. Some small disputes (particularly in small businesses) may not be identified because of the lack of media attention given to them.


26.18 As the collection is a census, no weighting is required.

26.19 Generally, there is no imputation for non-response. However, for large general strikes, clerical imputation methods are used, and as many sources are referenced as possible, such as trade unions, employer organisations, media reports and employers.


26.20 Estimates from the collection are subject to non-sampling error (see paragraph 16.102 to 16.105).


26.21 In order to provide a high degree of consistency and comparability over time, changes to collection methods, concepts, data item definitions and frequency are made as infrequently as possible. Significant changes have included:
1913Industrial Disputes collection commenced. Quarterly and annual statistics published.
1950Cause of dispute and Method of settlement classifications revised.

Ceased publishing the results of strikes and lockouts. These results had been defined as: in favour of the workpeople; in favour of the employer; compromise; and indefinite.
1952Ceased publishing details of the number of establishments involved by State/Territory and industry.
1960Number of disputes, number of employees involved and number of working days lost classified for the first time according to the size (in terms of the number of employees involved or the number of working days lost) of the dispute.
1967Working days lost per thousand employees first published.
1968Australian Standard Industrial Classification (ASIC) introduced; revised in 1973, 1978 and 1983.
1970Introduction of monthly statistics (in addition to the quarterly and annual statistics).

Cause of dispute classification revised.

1979Disputes and the number of employees involved categorised as either new (commenced during the reporting period) or continuing (continued from the previous reporting period, or the gap from the previous stoppage was less than 2 complete months).
1982Ceased publishing quarterly statistics.

Estimates of loss of wages discontinued.
1988From September 1988 a dispute affecting more than one industry and/or State is counted once in each affected industry and State but only once in the Australia total. Previously, disputes affecting more than one industry and State were counted as separate disputes at the industry and State level and in the Australia total.
1995Labour Force Survey estimates used as the basis for the calculation of working days lost per thousand employees. Previously, estimates from the Survey of Employment and Earnings were used, sometimes augmented by Labour Force Survey estimates.

Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) introduced.
2004Re-introduction of quarterly statistics.

Cause of dispute classification revised; Method of settlement classification revised and renamed 'Reason work resumed'; and Duration of dispute data item renamed 'Working days lost per employee involved'.


26.22 Details of definitions used in the Industrial Disputes collection are included in Chapter 12.

26.23 For further details contact the Labour Market Statistics Section, on Canberra (02) 6252 7206.

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