On 6 January 2012 The Australian reported:
Speaking in Brisbane yesterday, the Opposition Leader said the rate of industrial disputation had increased since the government changed and the Fair Work Act was brought in and it was important the review of the act ordered by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten addressed these problems.
On the same day The Sydney Morning Herald also reported:
THE crop of industrial disputes across the nation has been described as run of the mill by the Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten.
In Australia the Federal Coalition Government under Howard was in power between the federal elections of 2 March 1996 and 24 November 2007. The Federal Labor Government under Rudd and Gillard has been in power from 3 December 2007 to the present day.
Work Choices was enacted over the period 14 December 2005 to 27 March 2006 and the Fair Work Act was enacted over the period 7 April to 26 May 2009.
So who is right, Abbott or Shorten? I am giving the point to Shorten.
Firstly because there was an equal rise and fall in the annual instances of industrial relations disputes in the four years since Labor gained government and disputes only rose in one year out of three since 2009 – Tony Abbott was in error in seeing an increased rate directly related to the 2009 Fair Work Act. Secondly, because Abbott misrepresents industrial relations disputes under the Howard Government - in those eleven years dispute instances randomly rose in five years and randomly fell in six years.
Thirdly, the industrial relations landscape was varied enough between 1996 and 2011 for Shorten’s overall assessment to be accurate.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS):
The number of working days lost in 1997 was 528,800, a decrease of 399,700 (43%) from the 1996 calendar year. The number of disputes reported in 1997 (446) was 18% less than in 1996, with the number of employees involved decreasing by 46% to 312,700.
There were 518 industrial disputes reported in Australia in 1998, 71 more than the previous year according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This is the first increase in the number of disputes for a calendar year since 1995.
Nationally the number of disputes (514) and number of employees involved (347,000) increased by 15% and 10% respectively in 1998 compared to the previous year.
There were 717 disputes during 1999, the highest number since 1992 (728). The number of employees involved in industrial disputes (459,900) and working days lost (649,600) were the highest since 1996.
During the twelve months ended December 2001, there were 675 disputes, 23 less than in the twelve months ended December 2000 (698).
During the twelve months ended December 2002 there were 766 disputes, 91 more than in the twelve months ended December 2001.
During the twelve months ended December 2003, there were 642 disputes, 124 less than in the twelve months ended December 2002.
During the year ended December 2004, there were 691 disputes, 48 more than in the year ended December 2003.
During the year ended December 2005, there were 472 disputes, 220 less than in the year ended December 2004.
During the year ended December 2006, there were 202 disputes, 270 less than in the year ended December 2005.
During the year ended December 2007, there were 135 disputes, 67 less than in the year ended December 2006.
During the year ended December 2008, there were 177 disputes, 42 more than in the year ended December 2007.
During the year ended December 2009, there were 236 disputes, 59 more than in the year ended December 2008.
During the year ended December 2010, there were 227 disputes, 9 less than in the year ended December 2009.
During the year ended September 2011, there were 197 disputes, 36 fewer than in the year ended September 2010.
** December 2011 ABS industrial dispute statistics should be released in March 2012.