Employee relations encompass every form of aspect in the relationship between employee and employer. Human resources managers, supervisors and personnel are responsible in order to develop a bond with the employees within an organisation through the implementation of employee policies in terms of controlling employee performance, behaviour, conflict and discipline. Maintaining good employee relations is vital for the constant growth and development of an organisation. This assignment sheds light on the current issues related to employee relations in Singapore. It is seen that employment market of Singapore is depended on the foreign workers. On the other hand, in Singapore a major amount of workforce is represented by the aged people. Singapore company policies are facing challenge to relocate their labour-intensive industries to other countries. Privatization of government-linked companies is also a major issue in Singapore. It is argued that the role of trade union in Singapore is behind the aforesaid issues. It is because in Singapore, The Industrial Relations Act regulates a trade union in order to monitor the relationship between employee and employer. Now, it is necessary to see in this argument if trade unions in Singapore are able to execute all the responsibilities in order to develop a good relationship between employer and employee.
In Singapore the Industrial Relations Act is defined as such a regulation which conducts management of employee relations and settlement of trade disputes via collective bargaining, conciliation, arbitration, tripartite arbitration of individual disputes (Shields et al., 2015). It is argued that as per the Industrial Relations Regulations, before a trade union can include its members in the process of collective bargaining, it is necessary to have first accorded recognition from the employer. Now, the most important question in the growing competitive market, if the role of trade unions is justified in managing workforce challenges in accordance with economic development. Hence, it is important to discuss the processes of trade unions in Singapore which are used to maintain employee relations.
The process of collective bargaining may be commenced by either the trade union or the employer. However, whoever initiates the negotiations for collective bargaining, requires to serve a notice. In addition, the receiving party also requires to accept the invitation in order to be included in the process of collective bargaining. Industrial Relations Act of Singapore thinks that negotiation between employer and trade union needs to be developed as quick as possible so that they can handle various conflicts of employee interest collaboratively. In this context, it is essential to note what is a collective agreement. It is an agreement which is responsible behind the agreement between employer and trade union. The purpose of this agreement is to apply terms and condition in terms of employees’ employment. In Singapore, the validity of collective agreement is extended up to minimum 2 or 3 years. After signing the collective agreement, it is filed to Industrial Arbitration Court who certifies the agreement within a week.
In case, a collective agreement fails to be concluded at the level of employer, it requires to serve a notice to Ministry of Manpower (MOM) with request for conciliation assistance. Hence, within 14 days, MOM will conduct a conciliation meeting in terms of settling the dispute in collective agreement.
If MOM also fails to settle any trade dispute, the case goes to the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC) for arbitration. IAC interferes in a trade dispute when all the ways of reaching to the amicable agreement become unsuccessful. In Singapore, employees can lodge their complaints to MOM against unfair dismissal.
In order to look into individual disputes related to employee relations in Singapore, a tripartite collaboration has been developed between the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), the government and employers (Wang et al., 2016). The purpose of this tripartite union is to protect the human rights of the workers, motivate them to stay competitive and engaged within organisation, promote their economic and social wellbeing. This tripartite union in Singapore also aims to develop a progressive, integrated but widespread and caring labour movement. Under this tripartite union there are 57 unions and two associations (Harvey & Beaverstock, 2016). The collaborative initiation of all three parties in managing employee relations is successful in Singapore to accomplish economic and social development. Since 1965, this tripartism arbitrates in managing the workforce in Singapore in following a similar trend (Mitlacher et al., 2014). Hence several issues have been emerged in the labour movement of Singapore regarding employee relations.
According to the Industrial Relations Act, rank and file unions have the right to represent their efficient executives in looking into specific industrial matters on an individual basis. In 2015, The Industrial Relations Act has been amended in terms of expanding the scope of individual representation for executives in terms of reinstating employment. In this context tripartite guidelines are necessary to take into account. The tripartite guidelines encompass the scope of limited representation, eligibility of executives for limited representation, union membership and leadership and representation of executives by rank - and - file unions at workplace.
After analysing the roles of Singapore unions, it is stated that Singapore unions are highly constructive in terms of dealing with the workers who are traditionally organised and willing to be included in collective bargain with their employers. The employment market of Singapore is run based on the ground-up efforts of employees. This kind of leadership of union in managing employee relation is regarded in terms of permanence of employment. In most of the developed countries, when it is trying to diminish the power of union, Singapore is still depended to lead their employment market on unions. In many developed countries there are no future of union. It is argued that Singapore is also not an exceptional in this context. Firstly, the Industrial Relations Act lacks amendment in terms of reinvigorating the labour movement in Singapore. Though, in Singapore unions are still in powerful position to dictate labour market, it experiences loss of members. However, the rate of losing members of unions is lesser than other developed countries. It is argued that having membership of union is gainful for the employment in Singapore. In addition, for the arbitration of tripartite union, the companies in Singapore is successful in retaining the employees for longer term. However, in order to develop the employer-employee relationship, today there is hardly any need of union. It is because inevitability of internet, accessibility to smartphones and various kinds of social networking apps enables to foster the relationship between employer and employee. It is argued that continuous development of technology will also leave a negative impact on the future of union in Singapore very soon. The union leaders in Singapore requires to concentrate on achieving gainful employment within a company which is unionised by the union.
It is seen that the emersion of new business models such as Bitcoin and Coursera have already impacted employee relations in Singapore. Due to the establishment of a deal of online courses, workers have to admit short employment periods and frequent change of jobs (Yea, 2017). The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions shared some valuable information with local and international delegates regarding the recent held International Forum on Tripartism in Singapore.
From the source, which came into light are followed below.
- In Singapore, only 30% of workers changes job per year (Rodan, 2016). In the other developed countries this percentage is higher than that.
- It is reported that 50% percentage of workers in Singapore are remained in the same job for minimum 3 years (Tremewan, 2016). The rate of this percentage is also comparatively lower than the other developed nations.
- In Singapore, a private worker is listened to change job for maximum 6 times in his entire lifetime (Chua, 2014).
Examining the situation, it is argued that the employees of Singapore are less interested to upgrade their job skills in accordance with the requirement of a company. It is also asserted that the unions in Singapore are not unaware that the employees of Singapore are not eligible in order to represent workforce in following advanced technology (Mckenzie & Meissner, 2017). This is the reason; Singapore companies have to rely behind the foreign workers. For the same reason, the number of unemployment is being multiplied on daily basis in Singapore. It is seen that the members of union are Singapore is started to be unemployed (Fraile, 2016). It means how many number of workers of union will lose their employment, Singapore unions will also face shortage of members (Song, 2017). Hence, in this assignment it is argued that the future of union in Singapore is also remained in vulnerable position. The dimension of employer - employee relation is essential to be changed in terms of advancement of workforce. The extension age of employee retirement enables the older employee to remain in workforce. Therefore, the employment market in Singapore is not productive up to the mark. According to Bal (2015), as Singapore companies are bound to follow the Industrial Relations Act, with the unproductive employees the company's faces challenge to expand their business globally.
This critical analysis leads to argue that the Unions in Singapore fails to upgrade the employees for performance. As a result, the members of unions in Singapore are continuously losing their employments. Thus, the unions in Singapore are also losing their members continuously. Hence the future of unions in Singapore is also not certain for long term though the unions of Singapore are highly organised according to the tripartite guidelines. As the members of unions in Singapore face unemployment, the good relationship between employee and employer is in major threat. It is also concluded that the unions in Singapore cannot be upgraded in accordance with economic development.
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