By Daniel Hunter

Stoppages over pay - including pensions - are once more the main cause of working days lost to labour disputes in 2011 and 2012, after two years when disputes over redundancy accounted for most days lost, according to figures published by Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In 2011 and 2012 combined, 91% of days lost were in disputes where pay was the principal cause, whereas in 2009-2010 only 24% of days lost were in disputes over pay while 72% were in disputes over redundancy.

This marks a return to the pattern of years prior to 2009, where pay was again the main cause of days lost: in the period 2003 to 2008 disputes over pay accounted for 79% of days lost. Working conditions and other causes of dispute were relatively unimportant - in 2011 and 2012 combined they accounted for only 3% of days lost.

The majority of days lost in 2012 were in the public administration and defence industrial group, which accounted for 60% of days lost. However only 12% of all strikes were in this sector, showing that the number of workers taking part in these strikes is on average higher than in other industrial groups. The second highest proportion of days lost was in education, which accounted for 16% of the total.

Most disputes were fairly short: 47% of stoppages in 2012 were only for a single day, and these accounted for 76% of the total number of days lost. Only 7% of days lost were in disputes that lasted for 11 days or more, and another 8% in disputes of between five and 10 days. Only one dispute in 2012 caused the loss of 100,000 days or more, compared with three such disputes in 2011.

The two regions with the joint highest rate of working days lost to disputes in 2012 were London and the North East, both with 14 days lost per 1,000 employees, followed by Wales (which had the highest rate in 2011) with 12 days. However all regions saw the rate decline in 2012 compared with 2011. The lowest rate seen in 2012 was in Northern Ireland, with just one day lost per 1,000 employees.

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