Monday, February 13, 2012

RTÉ's pessimism on industrial disputes

RTÉ News runs this story about industrial disputes in Ireland with the downbeat headline: Days lost to industrial disputes up last year.

I was puzzled when I read it because the text seemed initially to say the opposite, that days lost were down:
New figures show that a total of 3,695 days were lost to industrial disputes last year.

The Central Statistics Office says this compares to 6,602 in 2010 and to 329,593 days in 2009, the majority of which related to public sector disputes.
At the end of the short article, however, it adds that in the last quarter of 2011, the number of days lost to industrial action were higher than in the last quarter of 2010. My guess is that a sub-editor perhaps noticed that finding and quickly concluded that the days lost were 'up', even though over the course of the year they substantially declined.

The longer term trends show no major increase in days lost to industrial action. In fact 2011 had the fewest days lost of any year over the entire 2003-2011 period covered in the official CSO statistics. Even the high fourth quarter had the 7th fewest days lost of any quarter since 2003 - and two of those other quarters were also in 2011. While that may be affected by a general decrease in employment, it could have been presented as really good news: industrial relations at a modern high!

It shows how new statistics are better understood if they are placed in a bit more context than just a one-off comparison with last year's equivalent.

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