Friday, June 03, 2011

Industrial chaos. Not. Yet.

The apparent upswing in industrial disputes is yet to show up in the official figures with the latest total - for the March quarter - the lowest in four years.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics compilation released yesterday identifies just 37 industrial disputes in the three months to March, well down on the 70 in the three months to December and the 54 in the previous March quarter.

The total is lowest since June 2007.

In the year to March just 53,800 workers were involved in industrial disputes, the lowest number for any 12-month period since December 2007.

Around 117,000 working days were lost in the 12 months, the lowest number since the year to March 2008.

None of the working days lost were in mining or manufacturing. Almost all were in the construction or transport, postal and warehousing industries.

The Treasury’s head of macroeconomics David Gruen told a Canberra hearing that while Treasury kept an eye on industrial disputes it was so far unconcerned...

“We monitor what is going on in the industrial relations arena and I guess ultimately what matters is outcomes rather than necessarily the process by which they are achieved,” he said.

“I think it is fair to say that wage growth slowed considerably during the global financial crisis and is now around where you would expect given that we are close to full employment.”

“The pleasing sign is the flexibility we are seeing where we are getting significantly different outcomes depending on the sector.”

“We are seeing quite strong wage growth in mining and quite moderate wage growth in retail trade. It is a sign of a labour market operating in a way that is consistent with more efficient labour allocation across the economy.”

“The future may hold surprises for us, but so far we think things are working as we would want.”

Published in today's SMH and Age

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