Release type: Media Release


Industrial disputes remain the exception not the norm


Senator the Hon Chris Evans
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations
Leader of the Government in the Senate

Figures released today by the ABS reveal the increase in days lost due to industrial disputes in this quarter has been driven by the failure of the NSW Government to negotiate agreements with teachers and other public sector workers.

"During the September quarter thousands of public sector workers took strike action to protest against the O'Farrell Government's wages policy," Workplace Relations Minister, Senator Chris Evans said.

"These disputes are not related to the operation of the Fair Work Act and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

"The increased number of days lost during the September quarter is also a result of the large numbers of enterprise agreements expiring during this period. There were also high levels of disputation in some industry sectors such as the coal industry."

Senator Evans said quarterly figures fluctuate and it was unreasonable to draw conclusions from these figures as to the general nature of industrial disputation. 

"Quarterly figures can fluctuate considerably and do not take into account the cyclical nature of industrial disputes," he said. 

Historical data shows a clear link between variations in the level of disputation and the number of expiring agreements and workers affected. 

More than 2300 federal enterprise agreements covering about 339,000 employees expired in the June quarter 2011 – well above the average of 1694 agreements covering 190,000 employees expiring per quarter over the last three years. 

"The highest level of industrial disputation in recent years was recorded under the Howard Government's workplace relations system," Senator Evans said. 

Senator Evans said bargaining under the Fair Work Act continued to work well. 

“Overwhelmingly, employers and employees are getting on with the business of bargaining and to suggest otherwise demonstrates a lack of understanding of the cyclical nature of industrial disputes,” he said.