Labor Management Relations

Labor Management Relations

Labor Management Relations (LMR) is about how employers and employees, represented by Unions, deal with each other and interact. It is important to any business as poor relationships can cause lower productivity and high levels of labor turnover. There are different LMR because of different beliefs, cultures, customs, and attitudes. Effective LMR is achieved through working together as a team, cooperation, trust, and equity between employers and employees. Singapore adopts the Tripartite (Dunlop) GUM model for their LMR. The three parties involved are the Government and its Agencies, Management and its Representatives, and Workers and their Union. The GUM model plays a very essential role in the industry/organization because it helps them to adjust to the changes that are taking place in the external environment. The external environment that affects the Tripartite relations are advancement in technology, conditions of the market, distribution of power in society, outcome of the establishment
of procedures and rules of the workplace, and network rules. All three parties are bound together by a shared ideology to make the system work. The Dunlop model was adopted by Singapore to achieve the common objective of the three participants which was to created more jobs and promote economic growth. It was crucial to maintain good and constant interaction among the three parties in order for the country to stay competitive in the world market. The scope of my essay will include the analysis on the roles of the 4 key players of LMR in Singapore, an analysis on the competitive advantage to Singapore through her LMR and my conclusion.
LMR involves four key players. The Employers; Employees; Employees’ representatives, which are the trade unions and; the Government, which are in charge of the Legislation.
The role of the Government is to make sure that there is industrial relations are not majorly interrupted by creating a balance between the management and employees. But, employees and management also need to collaborate to assist the government in striking a balance between legislative and administrative action as well as private action in labor relations. The Government has the authority and right to enact and enforce legislation and provide a legal framework within which labor relations are conducted. It may set policies and guidelines and promote specific initiatives. In Singapore, this role is played by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) which is responsible for the formulation and implementation of labor policies related to the workforce in Singapore.
Trade Unions traditionally perform three main roles in their relationship with the individual employers, business associations, government, and the community at large. The three roles are the; an economic role, representative role and social role. The economic role of Trade Unions involves facilitating production and establishing equal distribution of returns (Dhal, 2012). This is done through collective bargaining and negotiations at the management/industry and national level. Improvements in the working conditions and terms of employment for its members is the focus of these Unions. The representative role involves these Trade Unions providing a voice and identity to the workers at the workplace and in society at large. Their power comes from membership and assisting workers legally. In individual grievance procedures, the Unions also represent the employees. They help worker’s views on economic and social policies to be heard at all levels including organizations. They also encourage employers and employees to work hand in hand towards securing employment, improving working conditions and standard of living with consistent growth. The social role involves creating stronger unity by encouraging cohesion among workers in different industries and occupation. Special services like training and advice in regard to employment related issues are also provided to members of the union. They serve as the anchor for broad-based social and political movements sharing similar values and goals. Trade Unions also perform four functions; service function, representative function, regulatory function and government function. Performing a service function, members are aided in pushing for better wages, individual members are backed by the union and better represented, necessary advice and information are provided to members, education and training are provided, and also provide legal assistance. Performing a representative function, Trade Unions will represent their members to negotiate terms with the employers. When an employee has any disputes, their Human Resource (HR) department may not entertain or take action as it is only one person. However, when the employee goes to a Union, they are larger and will come up with legal actions to take and negotiate with the HR department on the behalf the employee. Performing a regulatory function, they are the representative on the rights and genuine interest of the members. All activities must be abiding by the constitution and law. Performing a government function, just like the government plays the role protecting the rights of its citizens, trade unions must protect the rights of its members.

In Singapore, there is the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). They are a national confederation of trade unions as well as a network of professional associations and partners across all sectors of Singapore. Their objective is to help Singapore stay competitive and for workers to remain employable for life, which is done by enhancing the social status and well-being of its members and working people, and to build a strong, responsible and caring labor movement. The NTUC strive to help people attain gainful employment through better jobs and better living through higher wages. Besides protecting the rights and advancing the interest of the working people in Singapore, they also strive to assist working families through the various stages of their lives and moderate their cost of living (Sim, 2015).

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The roles of the Employer consists of providing money and expecting returns for their money. The legal concept of property within its rights allows them to exert power and control. One of the rights is Core rights, where employers have the right to determine the objective, amount of money needed, the workforce needed in the organization and internal security practices of the organization. The other right is Operational rights, where employers have the right to hire, delegate, keep, promote, transfer employees and take disciplinary actions. Employers have to agree to provide work, pay wages and proper conditions of employment, provide acceptable health and safety standards, ensure all employees are treated fairly with no discrimination, provide sufficient training to improve the skill of employees, and provide a system where employees can seek redress for issues in the workplace. One function of the employers is to introduce policies and legal conditions in relation to the labor market so as to contribute to business growth. This can be carried out successfully if there is discussions between the government, union and managers, as well as a bipartite dialogue separately with unions and the government. The second function is to provide direct services to members. Employers are responsible for informing their employees about their mission, vision and objectives of the organization. By practicing transparency, employees will trust the organization more and feel a sense of belonging. In order to maintain a good working relationship, there must be communication.

In Singapore, there is the Singapore National Employers Federation. They aim to advance tripartism and enhance labor market flexibility to enable employers to implement responsible employment practices. They provide various services to employers to achieve this. They represent the key interests of employers in national tripartite committees, forums and national-level reviews. They provide a consultancy and advice to corporate members on the proper application of local labor laws, policies and tripartite guidelines. They update corporate members on the latest important developments in labor, manpower and employment issues. They also enable employers to develop sustainable and competitive workforces, and facilitate employers’ efforts to build an inclusive workforce and progressive workplaces through training programs provided by them. In addition, they provide leading-edge and timely research and information on a local HR and employment trends to enable corporate members to maintain their competitiveness.

Tripartism has assisted in increasing Singapore’s economic competitiveness, promoted harmonious labor-management relations and contributed to Singapore’s overall progress. The National Wages Council (NWC) is made up of the MOM, NTUC and SNEF. It was formed when Singapore was undergoing a period of rapid industrialization, which had resulted in workers expecting increase in wages. There were concerns that high wage expectations would lead to serious industrial disputes, which could dampen the investment climate and adversely affect the economic progress of Singapore. Thus, the NWC was set up to come up with wage guidelines to be in line with long-term economic growth, so that Singapore’s economic and social development would not be undermined. The Council meets every year to discuss and forge a national consensus on a wage and wage-related matters. Base on tripartite agreement reached during discussions, guidelines are given out on the wages for the employees.

Singapore has long recognized that talent and workers are its strongest resources and the importance of developing them. Singapore is the highest rank in attracting and retaining talent in Asia. Cooperation between systems such as government, organizations, and education is essential to develop talents and remain competitive. Singapore looks at competitors as partners, think about automation or artificial intelligence (AI) as an enabler, and turn perceived threats into an opportunity to disrupt or innovate company strategy (Su-Yen, 2017). According to the Global Competitiveness Index, Singapore is ranked number 3 out of 137 countries. This index assesses the ability of a country to provide prosperity for its people, which in turn looks at how effectively the country uses its resources for productivity. Furthermore, Singapore has only seen two major strikes in recent decades, once by shipyard workers in 1986 that was sanctioned by then NTUC secretary-general Ong Teng Cheong, and the November 2012 wildcat strike by Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) Chinese national bus drivers. In addition, it was reported that 90% of Singaporeans were under some form of flexible wage system in 2015 (Dewan, 2016). More organizations were putting in place flexible and performance-based wage system that allows adjustment of wages to the current business climate. This means more fair wages for the employees.

In conclusion, in Singapore there is a tripartite relationship between the government, the union and the managers, who are represented by the MOM, NTUC and the SNEF respectively. This tripartite relationship allows Singapore to gain a competitive advantage in the global economy. This can be reflected from Singapore’s ranking in the Global Competitiveness Index, and the fact that there has been very little major strikes that happened in the past decades. By having the NWC, the government, union and
management work together and discuss ensuring that workers are given fair wages for their productivity and effort. Singapore’s competitive advantage is a result of all three parties work together and are treated equally and fairly, leading to better working conditions and more productivity. Singapore also knows how to make use of its strongest resource which is talent, and by having better working conditions, opportunities and training being provided, more talents will be created or attracted to Singapore.

SU-YEN, W. (2017, September 27). Singapore’s competitive advantage. Retrieved from
Dhal, M. (2012). Do workers need union? A study of union function and effectiveness. Review of HRM, 1, 4-20. Retrieved from
Dewan, A. (2016, June 02). 90% of Singaporeans were under flexible wage systems in 2015. Retrieved from
Blum, A. (1993). Labour-Management Relations in Singapore: A Brief Analysis. Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, 29(2), 228-235. Retrieved from
Sim, C. (2015, March 11). National Trades Union Congress. Retrieved from


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