Appendix E: Methodology for Figure 2 – matters dealt with by the Commission and its predecessors 1998–99 to 2014–15

Collective versus individual work of the Commission over time – Figure 2

This note provides a brief summary of the methods used to produce the analysis of the nature of applications to the Commission between 1998–99 and 2014–15 (Figure 2).

The analysis in Figure 2 is based on time series data. Time series data is a collection of observations for the same entity (in this case, the national workplace relations tribunal) for multiple time periods. Time series data can provide information on historical trends and be used to predict future values of variables.

The main data source used for this preliminary analysis is data from the Commission's annual reports. From 1998–99 to 2010–11 the annual reports summarised the work of the Commission in a table entitled 'Historical table of caseload categories'. A similar table was produced for the 2011–12 Annual Report (PDF) entitled 'Fair Work Australia cases'. The most comparable data in the 2012–13 Annual Report (PDF) is provided at Table H3, entitled 'Cases by Matter Type', Table K2 for the 2013–14 Annual Report and at Table G3 for the 2014–15 Annual Report.

Problems can arise in time series analysis when it is difficult to achieve time series consistency. One situation where this may occur is when there is a change in data availability or gaps in data. This is an important consideration in the analysis of matters before the Commission. The annual reports contain different classifications of matter types and different levels of aggregation due to:

  • changes in the reporting practices and format of the Commission's annual reports
  • changes to the national workplace relations legislation, which result in new case categories.

For this reason, the analysis undertaken is with the intention of showing general trends over time only. Caution should be exercised in relying on the estimates provided of 'individual' and 'collective' matters due to the stated matters above concerning the differences in underlying data captured from the Commission's annual reports over time.

It is important to recognise that the individual/collective classification is not based on categories defined in the Fair Work Act or the Workplace Relations Act. The classification of particular types of matters as 'collective' or 'individual' is based on an objective assessment by Commission staff. The analysis is based on available data and does not capture the full workload of the Commission. Matters were included in the analysis based on whether a clear link could be established between a particular matter type and the exercise of collective (or association) rights or the exercise of individual (employee) rights.

Details of any changes in methodology for Figure 2 in previous annual reports are detailed in Appendix D of the 2013–14 Annual Report.

Table E1 below provides an overview of the case load categories included in the analysis of the Commission's work between 2007–08 and 2014–15.

Table E1: Matters included in the total case load categories
Individual matters Collective matters
Matter type Section of the Fair Work Act (or other legislation) Matter type Section of the Fair Work Act (or other legislation)
Unfair dismissal appeals FW Act, s.604 Full Bench matters and appeals1 FW Act, s.604 and WR Act, s.120
Applications to terminate individual transitional employment agreement (ITEA) Transitional Act, Sched 3 Item 17, Sched 3 Item 18, and Sched 3 Item 19 Notification under dispute settling procedure of pre-reform certified agreement WR Act s.170LW
Other contraventions applications to deal with dispute FW Act, s.372 Applications to deal with a dispute2 FW Act, s.240, s.505 and s.739(6)
Termination of employment FW Act, s.394 and s.643 Award variation FW Act, s.157, s.158 and s.160
Referral of AWAs to Commission WR Act, s.170VPF Agreements3 FW Act, s.185, s.210, ss.217–217A and ss.222–225
General protections disputes notification FW Act, s.365 and s.773 Suspension or termination of industrial action FW Act, Div 6
    Protected action ballot order FW Act, s.437 applications, s.447 applications to vary, and s.448 to revoke
    Orders relating to industrial action4 WR Act, s.496
    Good faith bargaining order FW Act, s.229

Note: 1 Excludes (excl) unfair dismissal or termination of employment. 2 From 2009–10, excl s.372 general protections notifications. 3 From 2009–10, excl applications to terminate ITEAs. 4 Only under Workplace Relations Act.

Source: 2014–15 data taken from Fair Work Commission Annual Report 2014–15, Table G3 and Table G4. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 19, p. 79. 2013–14 data taken from Fair Work Commission Annual Report 2013–14, Table K3 and Table K4. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 17, p. 43. 2012–13 data taken from Fair Work Commission Annual Report 2012–13, Table H3 and Table H4. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 22, p. 43. 2011–12 data taken from Fair Work Australia Annual Report 2011–12, Table 3, p.10 and Table H4, pp. 86–89. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 22, p. 29. 2010–11 data taken from Fair Work Australia Annual Report 2010–11, Table 2, p. 10 and Table G5, pp. 80–83. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 8, p. 14.

2009–10 data taken from Fair Work Australia Annual Report 2009–10, Table 2, p. 10, and Table H5, pp. 73–77. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 9, p. 15. 2008–09 data taken from AIRC Annual Report 2008–09, Table 1, p. 7. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 6, p. 12. *2007–08 data taken from AIRC Annual Report 2008–09, Table 1, p. 7. This is due to amended Full Bench caseload analysis. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 1, p. 7.

Technical points to note in relation to Table E1 are:

  • the case load category 'appeals' (or, Full Bench matters including appeals) is divided into unfair dismissal appeals (individual) and other appeals (collective)
  • the case load category 'dispute notifications' is divided into general protections notifications under the Fair Work Act s.365 and s.773 (individual) and other dispute notifications (collective)
  • the case load category 'agreements' is divided into applications to terminate ITEAs (individual) and other agreement matters (collective)
  • a number of matter types have not been included in the analysis, including matters pursuant to the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (Cth)
  • the majority of matters in the analysis are based on lodgment data with the exception of unfair dismissal appeals (which are derived from settlement data).

Understanding these underlying assumptions, and how they relate to the estimates of 'collective' and 'individual' matters, should be part of assessing the dynamics of workplace relations at the national level.