This essay aims at explaining the state of industrial conflict in Singapore presently. An employment relation is the relationship between managers and employees in an organisation which is usually informal – for example, between supervisors and subordinates. At the industrial level, the relationship between the management of an organisation and its union is more formal and referred as industrial relation which is a subset of employment relations (Tan, 2007).
Industrial conflict is the total range of behaviour and attitudes that express opposition and divergent orientations between industrial owners on the one hand and working people and their organisations on the other (Kornhauser, Dubin & Ross, cited in Bray, Waring & Cooper 2011, p. 377). There are two forms of conflicts that will be discussed in the next paragraph. In the context of Singapore, the pluralist perspective best describes the state of industrial conflicts in Singapore. On top of this perspective, with reference to Petzall’s six theories of a pluralist nature developed, the theories that best describe the current state of industrial conflicts in Singapore are industrialization and social factors.
Types of Conflicts
There are two forms of conflict – organised and unorganised. Organised conflicts are collective industrial actions carried out by two or more individuals that are open and obvious (overt). For example, strikes. Unorganised conflicts are behaviours and attitudes displayed by individual that are not obvious (covert). For example, low morale and absenteeism. A summary of these conflicts is shown in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Types of Conflict
Organised Conflict| Unorganised Conflict|
Is collective in nature that involves groups of employees or trade unions| Is individual in nature that involves only single employees| Is open (or overt) and is obvious to all that it is occurring| Is hidden (or covert) and is not obvious to all that it is occurring| Forms of conflict: * Strikes * Lockouts * Overtime bans * Working to rule * Restrictions on output * Political action| Forms of conflict: * Absenteeism * Labour turnover * Low productivity * Acts of sabotage * Acts of indiscipline| Source: Petzell (2007)
The Pluralist Perspective
The pluralist perspective sees employment relationship conflict as inherent, between management and unions, with collective bargaining and grievance procedures establishing a system of dispute resolution (Bennett & Kaufman 2007). This can be seen in Singapore where tripartism, involving both management and unions, is widely practised.
Tripartism is a three-way interaction between government, employer’s organisation and workers’ organisations (Trebilcock, cited in Fashoyin 2004). The three tripartite partners in Singapore are the Ministry of Manpower (Government), National Trade Union Congress (NTUC, representing Unions) and Singapore National Employers Foundation (SNEF, representing Employers) (mom.gov.sg, 2012). As confirmed by a speech from Mr Lee Hsien Loong – Prime Minister on 28 July 2010 (at CEO and Employers Summit, Resorts World Sentosa), he mentioned that the three tripartite partners faced many challenges together in overcoming crises, which will be discussed later under industrialization, and cooperated to expand Singapore’s economy and jobs for the people. This shows that the government and employers in Singapore take the unions as an entity, of almost at the same level as them, in making decisions when employment of the population is concerned which pluralism is.
In Singapore currently, there are no overt conflicts. Since 1987 till present, there have been neither strikes nor lockouts for at least two decades which is shown in Table 3 later. However, covert conflicts such as labour turnover are ongoing and we will look at how Petzall’s theories of industrialization and social factors support this current state of industrial conflicts in...