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Industrial Disputes, Australia

The number of disputes (strikes or lockouts), employees involved and working days lost; cause of dispute; duration; and the reason work resumed

Reference period
December 2021
Released
10/03/2022
  • Next Release 9/06/2022
    Industrial Disputes, Australia, March 2022
  • Next Release 8/09/2022
    Industrial Disputes, Australia, June 2022
  • View all releases

Key statistics

In the December quarter 2021:

  • 55 disputes occurred.
  • 57,200 employees were involved and 68,500 working days lost.
  • disputes occurred in 8 industries and in 8 states and territories.

During the year ended December 2021, there were 130 disputes and a total of 116,600 working days lost.

 QuarterYear ended
September Quarter 2021December Quarter 2021December Quarter 2020December Quarter 2021
Number of disputes    
 Commenced in period (no.)393771128
 Total (no.)505577130
Employees involved    
 Newly involved ('000)11.750.610.270.7
 Total ('000)13.357.211.471.1
Working days lost ('000)18.568.533.5116.6

Overview

In the December quarter 2021, there were:

  • 55 disputes, 5 more than from the previous quarter.
  • 57,200 employees involved, an increase from 13,300 in the previous quarter.
  • 68,500 working days lost, an increase from 18,500 in the previous quarter.

Year ended estimates:

  • 130 disputes occurred, 53 more than in the previous year.
  • 116,600 working days were lost, 83,000 more than the previous year.

Industrial disputes which occurred during the quarter
 Number of disputesEmployees involved 
 Commenced in periodTotalNewly involvedTotalWorking days lost
 no.no.'000'000'000
December Quarter 201934388.38.812.4
March Quarter 202017232.94.03.9
June Quarter 20208110.91.11.5
September Quarter 202019214.24.311.7
December Quarter 202027322.22.616.5
March Quarter 202122242.32.719.2
June Quarter 202130366.06.410.4
September Quarter 2021395011.713.318.5
December Quarter 2021375550.657.268.5

Long-term trends

The level of industrial disputation over recent years is considerably lower than in the 1980's and prior decades.

Industry

In the December quarter, disputes occurred in eight industries. More than six in ten (64%) working days lost were in the Education and training; Health care and social assistance industry.

Industrial disputes which occurred during the quarter, industry
 September Quarter 2021December Quarter 2021
Working days lostWorking days lost per thousand employeesWorking days lostWorking days lost per thousand employees
'000no.'000no.
Mining    
 Coal mining--1.229.3
 Other mining---0.2
Manufacturing    
 Metal product etc (a)1.85.12.58.0
 Other manufacturing1.32.54.28.4
Construction3.33.81.11.2
Transport, postal and warehousing8.715.811.419.8
Education and training; Health care and social assistance0.1-44.015.5
Other industries (a)3.20.54.00.6
All industries18.51.668.55.7

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
a. See Glossary - Industry - for details of industries included.

States and territories

Disputes occurred in eight states and territories in the December quarter, with more than three in four (76%) working days lost occurring in New South Wales.

Industrial disputes which occurred during the quarter, states and territories
 September Quarter 2021December Quarter 2021
Working days lostWorking days lost per thousand employeesWorking days lostWorking days lost per thousand employees
'000no.'000no.
NSW4.01.152.114.0
Vic.3.11.07.82.5
Qld4.01.73.81.6
SA1.21.52.02.4
WA4.73.62.31.8
Tas.1.46.00.20.7
NT0.10.4--
ACT--0.31.5
Australia18.51.668.55.7

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)

Cause of dispute

Most industrial disputes are Enterprise Bargaining (EB) related. Over the past 10 years, disputes over employment conditions have generally been the most prevalent. 

EB related issues were the cause of 78% of disputes (25 of 32) which ended in the September quarter 2021.

Cause of disputes which ended during the quarter
 June Quarter 2021September Quarter 2021
Total Number of DisputesTotal Employees InvolvedWorking days LostTotal Number of DisputesTotal Employees InvolvedWorking days Lost
no.'000'000no.'000'000
Enterprise Bargaining (EB) related     
 Remuneration80.41.870.20.8
 Employment conditions (EB)131.88.1184.67.0
 Other EB related1-0.1---
Non-EB related      
 Remuneration------
 Employment conditions---10.70.5
 Health and safety20.60.350.70.9
 Job security------
 Managerial policy------
 Union issues------
 Other Non EB related11.00.810.90.5
Total253.811.2327.29.6

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)

Working days lost

Working days lost is a measure of the length of a dispute, relative to the number of employees involved.

Of the 32 disputes which ended in the September quarter, 17 lasted for a day or less. These disputes had:

  • 5900 total employees involved; and
  • 4600 working days lost.
Working days lost for disputes which ended during the quarter
 June Quarter 2021September Quarter 2021
Total Number of DisputesTotal Employees InvolvedWorking days LostTotal Number of DisputesTotal Employees InvolvedWorking days Lost
no.'000'000no.'000'000
Up to and including 1 day132.41.7175.94.6
Over 1 day and up to including 2 days40.20.350.20.3
Over 2 and less than 5 days30.82.760.92.5
5 and less than 10 days20.43.040.32.3
10 days and over30.23.5---
Total253.811.2327.29.6

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)

Reason work resumed

The reason work resumed relates to the last day of action taken. Resumption of work can occur without resolution to the issues that triggered the dispute. 

There was a pre-determined return to work for 75% of disputes (24 of 32) which ended in the September quarter 2021. 

Reason work resumed for disputes which ended during the quarter
 June Quarter 2021September Quarter 2021
Total Number of DisputesTotal Employees InvolvedWorking days LostTotal Number of DisputesTotal Employees InvolvedWorking days Lost
no.'000'000no.'000'000
Negotiation without intervention of a third party60.43.140.31.1
State legislation1npnp---
Federal legislation------
Pre-determined return to work163.26.6244.97.2
Resumption without negotiation1npnp42.11.3
Mediation10.11.4---
Other reasons------
Total253.811.2327.29.6

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
np not available for publication but included in totals where applicable, unless otherwise indicated

Data downloads

Changes to Excel file format

As foreshadowed in the September quarter 2021 release, Industrial Disputes data file spreadsheets are now released in .xlsx format. While this change will improve usability, it may also require changes to automated macros or similar programs that call on the previous .xls format. This change does not impact on previously released data.

Time Series Spreadsheets

Data files

Labour themes and navigation on the ABS website to change on 25 March 2022

As previously advised, the thematic groupings and navigation for labour statistics on the ABS website are being updated to better reflect the current range of available labour statistics, better align key labour market concepts with website themes and navigation, and improve discoverability. The new themes (and the statistical releases which will appear under each theme) can be viewed on our Beta website, at beta.abs.gov.au/statistics.html#labour.
The changes will be implemented on the ABS website on Friday 25 March 2022.
The new themes will be:

  • Employment and unemployment
  • Jobs
  • Earnings and working conditions
  • Labour Accounts

Industrial Disputes statistics will move from the 'Earnings and work hours' theme (abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/earnings-and-work-hours/) to the renamed 'Earnings and working conditions' theme (abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/earnings-and-working-conditions/).
The key changes (from the current 'Employment and unemployment' and 'Earnings and work hours' themes) include:

  • addition of a 'Jobs' theme - to reflect the increasing range of jobs-related data ABS is releasing – including Weekly payroll jobs and wages and Jobs in Australia (currently in 'Earnings and work hours'), in addition to the longstanding statistics on Job vacancies and Job mobility (currently in 'Employment and unemployment').
  • addition of a 'Labour Accounts' theme - for cross-cutting quarterly and annual labour account data on jobs, people, hours and payments (currently in 'Employment and unemployment').
  • renaming the 'Earnings and work hours' theme to 'Earnings and working conditions' - to provide a clearer pathway the large range of information available on working conditions beyond wages (work arrangements, flexibility, workplace relations, etc) and reflect that key hours data are available from the 'Employment and unemployment' theme (from the monthly Labour Force Survey) and the Labour Account.

While these changes will result in a change to the placement of some statistical releases, and some URLs, there will be automatic redirects in place. These redirects will ensure that existing URLs and bookmarks will continue to work.

Inquiries

For inquiries about these and related statistics, contact the Customer Assistance Service via the ABS website Contact Us page. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 6321.0.55.001.