6321.0.55.001 - Industrial Disputes, Australia, Mar 2015 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/06/2015   
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This document was added 06/11/2015.



OUTCOMES FROM THE REVIEW OF INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES STATISTICS

PURPOSE

1. This paper presents the key considerations and outcomes of the review into Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Industrial Disputes statistics (cat. no. 6321.0.55.001), and outlines the planned next steps.

OUTCOMES

2. The ABS will continue with a timely quarterly series but extend the scope to all stoppages and coverage to work bans. As a result of this approach it will be necessary, for operational reasons, to maintain the current practice of monthly data collection. The ABS proposes to introduce a number of new series including:

      • The number of instances of work bans imposed.
      • The number of stoppages for all disputes at the Australia, state and industry levels on a quarterly basis while maintaining the existing time series for the number of stoppages involving 10 or more working days lost.
      • The number of working days lost for all stoppages at the Australia, state and industry levels while maintaining the existing series at the Australia level only.
      • The number of employees involved in all stoppages at the Australia level while maintaining the existing series (which is also at the Australia level only).

BACKGROUND

3. The ABS commenced a review of the Industrial Disputes statistics in 2013 to ensure that they remain relevant and meet critical information needs, particularly in view of changes that have occurred in the industrial relations environment. The overall feedback from government and other users of the statistics was that while the information currently provided quarterly remained useful, there was strong support for:
      • The scope and coverage of the statistics to be broadened; and
      • The release of detailed information that is currently regularly suppressed.

4. The ABS has a legislated requirement to not release (without consent) information in a manner likely to enable the identification of a business. Aggregated output cells which are likely to enable the identification of a business involved in industrial disputation are only suppressed after the ABS is unsuccessful in obtaining consent from the affected business(es) to release the information. Suppressing one output cell on confidentiality grounds will result in at least one other output cell being suppressed to avoid the identification of the suppressed value through the difference between a total and the sum of its components. The suppression of output cells in the current quarterly publication regularly prevents the release of important information by state, industry and cause of dispute.

5. After consulting with users to identify their critical information needs, the ABS conducted several rounds of consultation with businesses to confirm that the required information could be provided.

6. As a result of the consultation with users and businesses the ABS recommended the following changes to the Industrial Disputes statistics:
      1. The frequency of data collection changing from monthly to quarterly to give businesses greater flexibility in responding to the survey and to improve the efficiency of the collection.
      2. Coverage extending to include all stoppages (i.e. the inclusion of stoppages involving less than 10 working days lost).
      3. Scope extending to all industrial action (i.e. the inclusion of work bans).
      4. The frequency of data dissemination changing from quarterly to annual, with the annual release including both annual and quarterly aggregates, on the basis that this would assist in minimising the suppression of detailed annual aggregates.
      5. The industrial disputes ended series ceasing, since the time lag required for the determination and compilation of ended data for the annual period would significantly delay release of the annual publication.
7. Consultation with businesses confirmed that it is feasible to collect the number of instances of work bans being imposed on a business but it is not possible to collect other information about the work bans (e.g. number of employees directly involved and impact on production). Despite this, users confirmed that information on the number of work bans would provide an important additional indicator of industrial disputation.

8. The above recommendations were discussed by the Labour Statistics Advisory Group in 2014, and other users were offered, via the publication, an opportunity to participate in the review. Recommendation 1 was not considered controversial and was endorsed by users. Recommendations 2 and 3 were endorsed by most users but concern was expressed about the impact on the current time series. Recommendation 4 was endorsed by most users on the basis that it would result in less suppression of detailed information while one key user expressed strong concern about the loss of timely quarterly information. Recommendation 5, a consequence of Recommendation 4, was not considered controversial and was endorsed by users.

9. As a result of the concerns expressed about the above initial recommendations, three options have been considered.

Option 1 - No change to scope, coverage, content or output.
    Advantages:
      • Current time series maintained.
    Disadvantages:
      • Does not address any of the user requirements identified in the review.
      • Does not enable the statistics to reflect changes in the industrial relations environment. The current scope and coverage do not cover all aspects of industrial disputation and industrial action.
    Summary:
      • While this prevents any disruption to the series, it does not address the changes required by users to ensure the statistics remains conceptually robust and meet their critical requirements.

Option 2 - Continue a timely quarterly series but extend the scope to all stoppages and coverage to work bans
    Advantages:
      • Enables quarterly series, similar to those currently released, to be maintained and released in a timely manner.
      • The extensions to scope and coverage enable the statistics to reflect changes in the industrial relations environment.
      • Dispute "ended" data (for the preceding quarter) could continue to be compiled and released with "occurred" data for the current quarter.
    Disadvantages:
      • Extending the scope of the current statistics will impact on the current time series (this is discussed below).
      • Release of an annual series would not be introduced, meaning there would be no change to the extent to which required detailed data is suppressed.
      • The timing of the current quarterly release would be delayed up to five weeks to enable the collection, analysis and quality assurance of the additional data items. Processing the additional data will be undertaken within the existing resources.
    Summary:
      • This compromise maintains a quarterly release (although with a delayed release timing) and addresses the main improvements required by users apart from ensuring the release of annual aggregates which would lessen the suppression of detailed data.

Option 3 - Introduce an annual release which includes annual detailed series and quarterly indicators and extend the scope to all stoppages and coverage to work bans
    Advantages:
      • Less suppression of detailed data in annual aggregates.
      • Release of some quarterly series.
      • The extensions to scope and coverage enable the statistics to reflect changes in the industrial relations environment.
    Disadvantages:
      • Release of quarterly series will not be timely.
      • There will be some impact on the current time series.
    Summary:
      • While this addresses a number of changes required by users to ensure the statistics remains conceptually robust, the lack of a timely quarterly series is a major impediment.

10. The ABS recognises the need to achieve a balance between competing demands for frequent data and greater detail, and ensuring series remain relevant by adapting to current circumstances and maintaining time series. For Industrial Disputes statistics it is not possible to release greater detail on an annual basis and extend the series to all stoppages while also continuing a timely full quarterly series and maintaining the full current time series.

11. Balancing these competing requirements, the ABS will proceed with option 2 above i.e. continue a timely quarterly series but extend the scope to all stoppages and coverage to work bans. As a result of this approach it will be necessary, for operational reasons, to maintain the current practice of monthly data collection. The ABS proposes to introduce a number of new series including:
      • The number of instances of work bans imposed.
      • The number of stoppages for all disputes at the Australia, state and industry levels on a quarterly basis while maintaining the existing time series for the number of stoppages involving 10 or more working days lost.
      • The number of working days lost for all stoppages at the Australia, state and industry levels while maintaining the existing series at the Australia level only.
      • The number of employees involved in all stoppages at the Australia level while maintaining the existing series (which is also at the Australia level only).

NEXT STEPS

12. Implementing option 2 will require changes to the collection instrument, including:
      • Changes to the wording of existing questions.
      • Changes to additional information (definitions, instructions, notes).
      • The inclusion of new questions.
In addition, the collection instrument will move to online reporting which will change how providers can answer questions (e.g. free text boxes to be replaced by drop down/pick lists).

13. The current quarterly collection will continue until the December quarter 2016 issue to be released in early March 2017. The first quarterly release on the new basis is scheduled for implementation with the March quarter 2017 issue to be released in early July 2017.

14. If you have any queries, please contact Manpreet Singh, (Director - Labour Employer Surveys) on (08) 9360 5916 or via email <manpreet.singh@abs.gov.au>.