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Which Theory, or Theories of Industrial Conflict, If Any, Can Explain the State of Industrial Conflict in Singapore. Justify Your Answer.

Essay by   •  April 19, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  1,692 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,573 Views

Essay Preview: Which Theory, or Theories of Industrial Conflict, If Any, Can Explain the State of Industrial Conflict in Singapore. Justify Your Answer.

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Industrial conflict refers to all kinds of dissatisfaction experienced by

a group of employees within the working environment. This particularly

pertains to the terms and conditions stated in the employment contract. The

industrial relations system in Singapore has often been described as a

tripartite system where the government plays an important role in

coordinating and balancing task in labour- management relations (Rowley and

Benson, 2000). It is more pluralistic in nature when we are looking at

Singapore industrial relations. In actual fact, there is no one straight

forward theory that explains industrial conflict in Singapore. As a result,

we might need to use a few theories to explain the industrial conflict.

When reviewing Petzall theories on industrial conflict, these are the three

theories that are closely link to Singapore industrial conflict; namely

strikes as a product of industrialisation (Ross and Hartman), strikes as a

product of political factors (Korpi and Shalev) and strikes as a product of

institutionalisation (Clegg). Firstly, strikes belong to a form of overt

which also includes lockouts, pickets and bans. Overt is highly noticeable,

direct and aimed at gaining the maximum attention. It is also an organised

conflict. In view of theories regarding strikes as a product of

Industrialisation, Ross and Hartman's (1960) theory states that industrial

relations system is influenced by the pattern of strikes in any given

country, which is one of the most important theories. The four different

"patterns" of industrial nations are classified according to geographical

regions. They are known as North European (type 1), North European (type

2), Mediterranean/ Asian (type 3) and North American (type 4) (Petzall,

Abbott and Timo, 2007). Generally, all the theories except

Mediterranean/Asian are applicable to Singapore system where they are able

to explain the strong labour movement and government involvement in

settling conflicts. In the case of Singapore, this is mainly due to the

presence of National Trade Unions Congress (NTUC) which is the sole

national trade union federation in Singapore. From National Trade Unions

Congress website it showed that they have served 335 cases in 2010 and they

had 540,169 members at June in 2009. These figures are able to justify that

Singapore trade unions were not poorly patronized and did not have unstable

memberships. Secondly, we look at strikes as a product of political

factors, Korpi and Shalev (1979) where it concludes that countries that

have lower levels of strike activity is when labour movements have acquired

political power. In addition for this to happen, political power of the

labour movement had to be secure and enduring. This is the current

situation in Singapore as mention in above, Singapore belongs to pluralist

who implies that conflict should be resolved by the government unlike

unitary. Unitary perceive conflict as disruptive and workplace should be

characterised by harmony (Sheldrake, 2003). National Trade Unions Congress

is virtually a branch of government, two out of the five presidents had

been prominent in the labour movement as National Trade Unions Congress's

secretaries-general since independence. (Benson, 2008). Furthermore,

National Trade Unions Congress has grown steadily as compared to the past

and secured the dominating position in the labour movement with government

support. Since then, relationship that was used to be conflict orientated

has now become negotiation orientated. (Liu & Siu, 2004). The relationships

among labour, employer and government have also achieved harmony. As a

result of the harmonized relationship, this has also help contributed to

the low incidence of strikes in Singapore. To further support Korpi and

Shalev theory, National Trade Unions Congress was created in 1960s and it

is said that since1978 there has been no reports on strikes with the

exception of a two days action in 1986 ( Eur, 2002 ). The following

statistic is provided by Statistic Singapore is able to support the above

statement that in the recent years, industrial disputes was nil from 1977

to 2010. The reason behind this good track record of nil industrial

disputes over the years could be the strong control over organized labour

in Singapore. At the same time, not forgetting the dramatic tightening of

labour legislation in Singapore made it extremely difficult for employees

to organize a strike in Singapore. (Le Blanc, 2008). As such, with the

garner of government support, the likelihood of strike occurring in

Singapore is lower. This could also mean that as an industrial tribunal,

National

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