The latest industrial dispute statistics should be a huge wake up call for the Government," says Ai Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout.
In a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra last week Ms Ridout described the current industrial scene as “deeply worrying.”
“It is particularly worrying because of its growing adverse impact on the flexibility and performance of key industrial sectors at a time when we need to be increasing our flexibility and responsiveness,” Ms Ridout said.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) there were 66 industrial disputes during the September quarter this year – 13 more than in the June quarter 2011.
The number of employees involved in industrial disputes in the September quarter was 66,400 – an increase from 14,700 in the June quarter.
There were 101,300 working days lost due to industrial disputation in the September quarter – an increase from 66,200 in the June quarter.
“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, Ms Ridout said.
“This was something which we warned may happen when the Act came in.
“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. There is a significant lag in the ABS industrial dispute statistics and I expect 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.
“We are also seeing instances of unlawful behaviour," Ms Ridout said.