• Cole Royal Commission;
  • Industrial disputes;
  • Strikes;
  • Productivity

The Cole Royal Commission into the building and construction sector recommended radical ‘reforms’ in that sector's labour market. The Commission based its recommended changes on evidence of lacklustre productivity for the period under review. Updating multifactor productivity reveals that the lacklustre productivity growth for the last three approximate decades is, on average, comparable to that of the rest of the economy. Some aspects of the pattern of industrial disputes appear to have been unappreciated. For example, while it is true that dispute rates have in recent years been high relative to most other sectors, during earlier periods—in particular during the period of the Accord (1983–1996)—dispute rates were falling more rapidly than elsewhere. It is concluded that the rationale for radical reform is less secure than that argued for in the original report.