6321.0 - Industrial Disputes, Australia, Dec 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/03/2004  Ceased
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Cause of dispute

The statistics for cause of industrial disputes relate to the reported main cause of stoppage of work and not necessarily all causes that may have been responsible for the stoppage of work. For these reasons, the statistics do not reflect the relative importance of all causes of disputes as perceived by both employers and employees. The causes are classified from information supplied by employers and according to standards determined by the International Labour Organisation. The classification of causes is as follows:

      Wages: Claims involving general principles relating to wages e.g. increase (decrease) in wages; variation in method of payment, or combined claims relating to wages, hours or conditions of work in which the claim about wages is deemed to be the most important. Combined claims in which the other claims are deemed to be the most important are included under the relevant cause. Disputes over award restructuring are included under managerial policy.

      Leave, Pensions, Compensation: Claims involving general principles relating to holidays and leave provisions; pension and retirement provisions; workers’ compensation provisions; insertion of penal clause provisions in awards.

      Managerial policy: Disputes concerning the exercise of managerial control by employers, e.g. terms and conditions of employment (other than disputes specifically about wages and hours); new awards and agreements; award restructuring; enterprise bargaining (including disputes over wages, leave, hours of work etc. where they are part of enterprise bargaining); work practices; principles of promotion or deployment of staff, including roster complaints and retrenchments; disciplinary matters including alleged victimisation of union officials; employment of particular persons; disagreement with managerial decisions.

      Physical working conditions: Disputes concerning physical working conditions and safety issues, e.g. protective clothing and equipment; first aid services; uncomfortable working conditions; lack of, or the poor condition of, amenities; claims for assistance; shortage or poor distribution of equipment or material; condition of equipment; new production methods and equipment; arduous physical tasks.

      Trade unionism: Disputes concerning employment of non-unionists, inter-union and intra-union disputes; sympathy stoppages in support of employees in another industry; recognition of union activities.

      Hours of work: Claims involving general principles relating to hours of work, e.g. decrease (increase) in hours, distribution of hours.

      Other: Disputes concerning protests directed against persons or situations other than those relating to the employer/employee relationship, e.g. political matters; fining and gaoling of persons; lack of work; lack of adequate transport; non-award public holidays; accidents and attendance at funerals. Stoppages for which no reason is given are also included in this category.

For these statistics, an industrial dispute is defined as a withdrawal from work by a group of employees, or a refusal by an employer or a number of employers to permit some or all of their employees to work, each withdrawal or refusal being made in order to enforce a demand, to resist a demand, or to express a grievance.

A dispute affecting several establishments is counted as a single dispute if it is organised or directed by one person or organisation; otherwise it is counted as a separate dispute at each establishment (in each state or territory) and in each industry in which it occurred.

A dispute affecting more than one industry and/or state is counted once in each industry and/or state but only once at the broader industry and Australia level. Before September 1991 disputes covering more than one industry and/or state were counted differently (refer to paragraph 9 of the Explanatory Notes for details).

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.

Disputes which ended during the year

Disputes which ended during the year encompasses those disputes which:
  • started in a previous year and ended in the reference year
  • began and ended in the reference year.

Disputes which occurred during the period

Disputes which occurred during the period encompasses those disputes which:
  • started in a previous month or year and ended in the reference period
  • began and ended in the reference period
  • began in the reference period and continued into the next period
  • started prior to the reference month or year, continued through the reference period and into the next period.

Duration of dispute

The duration of a dispute is the average number of working days lost per employee involved in the dispute. The duration of the dispute is calculated by dividing the number of working days lost in the dispute by the number of employees involved (both directly and indirectly).


Employees refers to wage and salary earners only. Excluded are persons who are self-employed (e.g. building sub-contractors, owner-drivers of trucks) and employers.
      Employees directly involved are those who actually participated in the dispute in order to enforce or resist a demand or to express a grievance.

      Employees indirectly involved are those who ceased work at the establishment where the stoppages occurred, but who were not themselves parties to the dispute. Employees who ceased work at establishments other than those where the stoppages occurred are excluded (see paragraph 2 of the Explanatory Notes).

      Employees newly involved are those who are involved in the dispute for the first time during a dispute. Total employees comprises newly involved employees and employees involved for a second period in the same dispute.

      Total employees involved for any period of time are obtained by adding together the number of employees involved in each dispute in the period. For any period of time the figures may include details of the same employees involved in more than one dispute. The longer the period of reference, the more chance there is of some double counting in the number of employees involved. Where there are varying numbers of employees involved during the progress of a dispute, the figures involved relate to the largest number of individual employees involved on any one day. Generally, the total number of employees involved for each year will equal the sum of the total number of employees involved in the first month of a year plus the number of employees newly involved in subsequent months. Differences between monthly and annual totals can occur due to the temporary cessation of stoppages which resume in subsequent months. Employees re-involved in this type of dispute are not classified as employees newly involved in stoppages in the second period in which the dispute occurs.

Industry is classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification 1993 (see paragraph 10 of the Explanatory Notes).

Other industries comprises those industries not included in the specified industry groupings. Other industries comprises Agriculture, forestry and fishing; Electricity, gas and water supply; Wholesale trade; Retail trade; Accommodation, cafes and restaurants; Finance and insurance; Property and business services; Government administration and defence; Cultural and recreational services and Personal and other services.

Method of settlement

Statistics for the method of settlement of industrial disputes relate to the method directly responsible for ending the stoppage of work as reported and not necessarily to the method (or methods) responsible for settling all matters in dispute. For these reasons, they do not reflect the relative importance of the work of various industrial tribunals operating under state and federal legislation.

The classification of method of settlement is as follows:
      Negotiation: Private negotiation between the parties involved, or their representatives, without the intervention or assistance of authorities constituted under state or federal industrial legislation.

      State legislation: Intervention or assistance of an industrial authority or authorities created by or constituted under state conciliation and arbitration or wages board legislation, or reference to such authorities or compulsory or voluntary conference. Intervention, assistance or advice of state government officials or inspectors.

      Federal and joint federal–state legislation: Compulsory or voluntary conference or by intervention or assistance of, or reference to, the industrial relations commissions created by or constituted under the Industrial Relations Act, Coal Industry Acts, Stevedoring Industry Act; and other acts such as the Navigation Act and Public Service Arbitration Act. Intervention, assistance or advice of federal government officials or inspectors.

      Resumption without negotiation: This category may include some disputes which are settled subject to subsequent negotiation of a formal nature, such as industrial court hearings. Stop-work meetings are included, and this category may also include disputes settled by ‘resumption’ as stated, but about which no further information is available.

      Other methods: Mediation; filling places of employees on strike or locked out; closing establishments permanently; dismissal or resignation of employees.
Working days lost

Working days lost refers to working days lost by employees directly and indirectly involved in the dispute and figures are generally as reported by parties to the dispute. For some disputes, working days lost are estimated on the basis of the number of employees involved and the duration of the dispute.

Working days lost per thousand employees

Working days lost per thousand employees are calculated for the twelve month period by dividing the total number of working days lost by the total number of employees and multiplying by 1,000. The number of employees is obtained from the ABS Labour Force Survey, and is averaged over the twelve month period. Refer to paragraph 8 of the Explanatory Notes for further information.