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Issue Date: 1990
Abstract: Industrial relations is basically a study of the complex relationship between the government, trade unions and employers. Yet most studies done on this subject have focused on the role of the Government and the trade unions, paying very little attention to that of the employers. This thus leaves a gap in the literature, and this is true even in Singapore. This academic exercise seeks to fill this 'gap ' as management is considered an important actor in industrial relations. Employers' associations are formed by a group of employers who attempts to seek collective interests in industrial relations. There are presently 5 such organisations in Singapore, of which The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) is the most dominant, primarily because of its membership size. SNEF was formed in 1980, the result of the merger between of The Singapore Employers Federation (SEF) and The National Employers Council (NEC). SEF came into existence in 1948 while NEC, the smaller of the two organisations, was formed in 1965. This academic exercise seeks to identify the objectives and strategies of these organisations. By strategies we mean attempts by these organisations to modify existing institutions or develop new institutions for decision-making in industrial relations. This may involve the setting up of work councils at the plant level or other joint-decision making institutions. Specifically we will deal with institutions like the Industrial Arbitration Court and the National Wages Council. This exercise looks at how the presence of these two institutions affect the strategies of SNEF, and its predecessors, in collective bargaining. The approach of this paper is to look at the various issues that confronted the organisations, in a chronological order, from 1948 when SEF was formed, until the present day. Three periods are considered. The first is from 1948 to the late 1960's. when SEF, NEC and the lAC emerged amidst a period of industrial uncertainty. The second, from 1972-1985, is the incomes policy period, when the NWC was institutionalised with a system of national collective bargaining. The third is the post-recession period from 1985 to the present day, when SNEF introduced wage reform as a strategy to moderate future wage increases. The research into this topic was handicapped by a lack of literature review and data especially on NEC. To overcome such deficiencies. extensive interviews were conducted which proved to be invaluable. Theoretical concepts have been incorporated into the analysis and issues covered focused mainly on the lAC and the NWC. It is found that SNEF is accomodative to Governmental pressure, in the sense that it supports major public policy undertaken by the authority in the industrial relations scene. On the other hand, SNEF is able to exert its influence as an employers’ organisation through tripartism. SNEF prefers a reduced role for the NWC which could mean a return to direct negotiation between union and management, and also an end to incomes policy in Singapore. SNEF encourages the use of the lAC to resolve conflicts from the workplace as a strategy to avoid outright confrontation with the unions. SNEF also adopted an active role in the pursue of wage reform. This is a strategy to ensure its members' competitiveness in the face of rising competition against the newly-industrialised economies. Furthur research into this topic is suggested, for which this academic execise may provide the necessary thoeretical tools that might be useful for such purposes. More elaborate economic modeling of employers' associations in Singapore should be undertaken, to focus among other things, the degree of employers' cohesiveness in different market structures. Essentially this academic exercise is a beginning for more detailed study into the topic
Appears in Collections:Bachelor's Theses

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