Our future direction

The economic and social environment in which the Commission operates has continued to change throughout 2014–15.

The most significant change continues to be the ongoing shift from more traditional collective dispute resolution work to individual dispute resolution, as illustrated in Figure 2. Figure 2 shows that in the past 12 months, the Commission has continued to deal with significantly more disputes of an individual nature than in the past.

Figure 2: Matters dealt with by the Commission and its predecessors, 1998–99 to 2014–15

As noted above, Figure 2 shows that in the past 12 months the Commission has continued to deal with more disputes of an individual nature than in the past.  Further information relating to Figure 2, including methodology, is available in Appendix E.

The reduced number of collective applications between 2006 to 2009 can be attributed to jurisdictional changes to the Workplace Relations Act 1996 during this period.The large spike in individual matters in the 2009–10 financial year primarily reflects a large number of applications to terminate individual agreement-based transitional instruments (16,089 applications).

Methodology is at Appendix E.

This trend means that the Commission must continue to adapt to reflect the evolving nature of the parties appearing before it. The Commission continually consults with stakeholders and reviews its processes to identify ways it can make interacting with the tribunal as simple as possible.

An example is the Commission's work with small business. During the past 12 months the Commission has consulted with many small businesses, their peak bodies and other government agencies to better understand the unique challenges faced by this important sector of the Australian economy. See Working with Small Business In Focus.

As part of the Commission's commitment to improving transparency, accountability and access to justice, it has also looked for ways to make its processes more efficient. In line with this it has focused on reducing the number of manual, low-value tasks to free up staff for more meaningful, value-adding work.

The shift in the nature of its work has led the Commission to focus on alternative dispute resolution models and on a preventative approach to dispute resolution, where appropriate. This approach helps it to meet its statutory obligation to 'promote cooperative and productive workplace relations'.

The Commission's 'New Approaches' program (see 'New Approaches' In Focus) and associated initiatives are also designed to help it meet this statutory obligation and to promote a more proactive dispute prevention model.