The industrial relations landscape in Singapore is characterised by the tripartite relationship between the Labour Movement, Government, and employers. Key to this relationship is the collaborative manner in which all three parties approach labour-management relations. This has, in turn, led not only to economic success for the nation but also marked social progress.
In 2008, for example, despite the global financial crisis, Singapore was able to achieve overall growth in employment with numbers increasing from 2.95 million in 2008 to 2.99 million in 2009. In 2011, Singapore was ranked the most competitive Asian country with the most cooperative labour-employer relations by the World Economic Forum. Average wages have increased six fold since 1965 after adjusting for inflation.
In the face of 2016’s modest economic growth with uncertain prospects, coupled with the challenges of both short term cyclical and longer term structural changes, the Labour Movement is leveraging, once more, its close ties with employers and Government to protect workers’ interests and help them to remain relevant and adaptable through continual training.
One area that harmonious industrial relations has been brought to bear is workers’ wages. The Labour Movement has been pushing for the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), with its emphasis on productivity, skills and progression pathways, to be more prevalent across industries. Its efforts to get businesses to adopt the annual National Wages Council (NWC) guidelines led to healthy wage increases in 2015. Workers in unionised companies enjoyed a basic wage increase of about 4% and estimated bonus payments averaging about 3 months.
In turn, the Labour Movement has urged workers across different sectors to improve productivity to ensure that the wage increases can be sustained.
To better protect our workers and in view of the changing workforce profile, NTUC advocated for changes to the labour laws and the Industrial Relations Act (IR Act). With amendments to the Employment Act, more working people, particularly the Professionals, Managers, and Executives (PME) are protected by the law.
The amended IR Act, which allows rank and file union to represent PMEs, is slated to benefit 100,000 unionised PMEs with the potential to impact another over 600,000 PMEs in the workforce. With greater awareness on their employment rights, 72% more PMEs also sought assistance in 2015 (from 2014’s 424 to 2015’s 729).
In terms of industrial relations cases, the Labour Movement settled 2,851 industrial relations cases compared to the 1,953 cases the year before; 90% of which were referred to and successfully resolved at union-management level.
Workers in unionised sector enjoyed several benefits as a result of good labour-management relations. In addition to annual leave, more were granted other types of leaves as compared to 2014. 99% gave compassionate leave for the death of immediate family members up from 98%. 91% provided marriage leave, up from 88% in 2014.
Child sick leave went up by 1% to 11%. Eldercare leave rose to 11% from 8%. Family-care leave leapt 4% from 2014’s 5%.
The most significant improvement was in the provision of additional paternity leave over and above the one-week Government-paid paternity leave - 6% as opposed to 0% in 2014. In addition, 320 unionised companies stipulated 5 days of training and examination leave on average.