Record industrial dispute figures deemed a wake up call for the Government

 The number of industrial disputes in Australia is on the rise, according to the latest statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistic (ABS).

Sixty-six disputes took place in the September quarter 2011, ABS figures revealed. This was 13 more than in the June quarter 2011.

September quarter figures also showed that the number of employees involved in industrial disputes was 66,400, an increase from 14,700 in the June quarter 2011.

A reported 101,300 working days were lost due to industrial disputation in the September quarter 2011, which is an increase from 66,200 in the June quarter 2011.

The coal mining industry had the highest number of working days lost per thousand employees (155.8 days lost) for the quarter.

In the September quarter 2011, New South Wales accounted for 52,900 (52%) of working days lost.  The sate also had the highest number of working days lost per thousand employees (16.8 days lost) for the quarter.

The ABS also noted that while there were fewer disputes during the year ending September 2011, more working days was lost during the same period.

One hundred and ninety seven disputes were recorded during the year ending September 2011, which is 36 fewer than in the year ended September 2010, while 214,400 working days were lost during the year ended September 2011 compared with 144,100 in the year ended September 2010.

The most high profile strike in mining has been the long running dispute at BMA’s coal mines in Queensland, which have seen ongoing rolling stoppages since the start of this year.

Strikes at Rio Tinto’s operations, at New Hope Coal, on Christmas Island, and at Griffin Coal have also helped to slow the industry.

The Australia Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) have called for a legislation to ban strikes that ‘offend public interest or are designed to pressure employers to cave in to union demands.

The AMMA reportedly called for the law amongst a number of other proposals it has submitted for the Federal review of the industrial relations laws in January next year, according to The West Australian.

AMMA spokesperson Minna Knight said legislation is needed to ban some strikes as existing laws are too lenient.

Following a survey of more than 700 union applications for industrial action, it was found that Fair Work Australia granted the right to carry out strikes in all but six cases.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said the latest ABS industrial dispute statist should serve as a huge wake up call for the Government.

Addressing the National Press Club on Wednesday, she said the current industrial scene is deeply worrying, particularly worrying because of its growing adverse impact on the flexibility and performance of key industrial sectors, especially at a time when we need to be increasing our flexibility and responsiveness.

 "We all knew the Fair Work Act would increase union power but there has also been a discernable negative change in union culture and behaviour. This was something which we warned may happen when the Act came in," Ridout said.

 "When the Act was introduced into Parliament we prepared a list of over 60 areas where union power had increased. This list would be twice as long if we had prepared it today, given the way that the unions have pressed the boundaries of the Act over the past two and a half years and the interpretations which the Courts have placed on some of the sections, for example, the General Protections.

"It has been several years since we have seen so much industrial action taken against multi-national companies and in the public sector."

Ridout noted that is there is a significant lag in the ABS industrial dispute statistics and expects the next report will confirm a further deterioration in the industrial environment.

"There are many instances where unions are pressing the new rights which they have acquired under the Act, such as the right to take industrial action over a much wider series of claims. The pursuit of union job security clauses and restrictions on outsourcing fall into this category," Ridout said.

"We are also seeing instances of unlawful behaviour."

To view ABS Industrial Disputes Data – September quarter, click here.

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