6102.0.55.001 - Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2013  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/05/2013   
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26.1 The ABS has been collecting information about industrial disputes since 1913. The current industrial disputes collection produces quarterly estimates of the number of disputes (where ten or more working days are lost), employees involved, and working days lost. The data are used to support the analysis and monitoring of industrial disputation in Australia.


26.2 Estimates from the industrial disputes collection are currently released quarterly in Industrial Disputes, Australia (cat. no. 6321.0.55.001) and editions of these industrial dispute statistics are available back to March quarter 2004. As well as presenting key figures and key points, between March 2004 and Sep 2006 the publication included summary tables (in addition to time series spreadsheets). From December 2006 the summary tables are no longer presented. Releases between October 1970 and December 2003 were monthly (cat. no. 6321.0).

26.3 Historical data are available via past releases of Labour Statistics, Australia (cat. no. 6101.0). More information on the types of historical ABS data that are available relating to industrial relations issues is available from the Directory of Industrial Relations Statistics, July 1996 (cat. no. 1134.0).

26.4 A number of series are produced from the industrial disputes collection. For disputes which occurred during the period, these include:

    • number of industrial disputes
    • number of employees involved
    • number of working days lost
    • number of working days lost per 1000 employees

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

26.6 Estimates are cross classified by state or territory and industry.


26.7 This collection includes all establishments that had industrial disputes which involved stoppages of work of ten (working) days or more within the reference month. Ten working days is equivalent to the amount of ordinary time worked by ten people in one day, or by 40 workers attending a 2 hour stop work meeting (assuming they worked an 8 hour day). For example, 3,000 workers on strike for 2 hours would be counted as 750 working days lost (assuming they normally work an 8 hour day). Disputes which involve the equivalent of less than 10 working days lost are excluded.

26.8 Measures of industrial disputes are based on concepts and definitions outlined in international guidelines adopted by the 1993 International Conference of Labour Statisticians. Refer to Chapter 13 for more information.

26.9 The following types of industrial disputes are within the scope of the Industrial Disputes collection:
    • unauthorised stopwork meetings
    • general strikes
    • sympathetic strikes (strikes in support of a group of workers already on strike)
    • political or protest strikes
    • rotating or revolving strikes (strikes which occur when workers at different locations take turns to stop work)
    • unofficial strikes
    • work stoppages initiated by employers (lockouts).
26.10 This concept of an industrial dispute is broader than the concept of industrial action within the Fair Work Act. For example, if an industrial dispute is based on concern of the employee about an imminent risk to his or her health or safety, this is considered an action of ceasing unsafe work under the Work Health and Safety Act, as opposed to industrial action.

26.11 Excluded from the scope of the collection are other types of industrial action, such as 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.

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


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

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


26.15 Estimates are compiled according to the concepts and definitions outlined in Chapter 13. As the collection is a complete enumeration, no weighting is required.

26.16 Generally there is no imputation for non-response. However 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.

26.17 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. Due to this rule, data relating to disputes which ended in the quarter cannot be finalised until two months have elapsed without further industrial action. Consequently the publication of data for disputes which ended during the quarter is lagged by one quarter.

26.18 Revisions may be made to quarterly data as a result of disputes being identified after release of data for that quarter or as a result of correcting errors in previously reported data.

26.19 The basis for the calculation of working days lost per thousand employees was changed in the January 1995 publication to use estimates of employees taken from the ABS Labour Force Survey only. Estimates have been recalculated on this basis for each 12 month period back to December 1990 and are available on request. For the January 1987 to December 1994 periods, estimates of employees were taken predominantly from the ABS Survey of Employment and Earnings.


26.20 Estimates from the industrial disputes collection are subject to non-sampling error (see Chapter 17 for more information).


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:
    Industrial Disputes collection commenced. Quarterly and annual statistics published.

    Cause 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.

    Ceased publishing details of the number of establishments involved by State/Territory and industry.

    Number 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.

    Working days lost per thousand employees first published.

    Australian Standard Industrial Classification (ASIC) introduced; revised in 1973, 1978 and 1983.

    Introduction of monthly statistics (in addition to the quarterly and annual statistics).
    Cause of dispute classification revised.

    Disputes 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).

    Ceased publishing quarterly statistics.
    Estimates of loss of wages discontinued.

    From September 1988 a single dispute affecting more than one industry and/or state is counted once in each affected industry and state but only once in the industry or Australia total. Previously, disputes affecting more than one industry and/or state were counted as separate disputes at the industry and state level and in the industry and Australia totals.

    Labour 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.
    Industry classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 1993(cat no. 1292.0), replacing the Australian Standard Industrial Classification (ASIC). All data released electronically classified using ANZSIC from 1984.

    Data released on a quarterly basis, no longer monthly.
    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'.

    From the March quarter industry statistics based on Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 edition. Data on this basis available for periods from March quarter 2008 onwards.
    Data on the old ANZSIC 1993 basis are available up to the December quarter 2008.


26.22 Details of definitions used in the industrial disputes collection are included in Chapter 13. For further information contact the Labour Market Statistics Section in Canberra on (02) 6252 7206 or email <labour.statistics@abs.gov.au>.

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