The paper "Singapore Employment Relations System" is an outstanding example of a human resources case study. Countries significantly employ different systems, principles, structures, ideologies and frameworks in administering various aspects of their economy (Jost, Federico, & Napier, 2009, p. 313; Finnemore & Sikkink, 1998, p. 290-293). These factors ultimately impact on patterns of interaction that takes place within that given country (Almond, 1956, p. 396). One such aspect relates to systems of employment relations where a country can be informed by pluralism, unitarism and Marxism or have a combination of the same so as to suit their needs (Abbott, 2006, p. 191-197).
Such varying systems of employment relations implies that international expatriates in human resource management have to be well versed with the system of the country they have been deployed so as to avoid unnecessary setbacks such as industrial actions and strained internal working relations yet human resource is critical to the success of an organisation. Anchored on this realisation and using the case example of Singapore and with the assumption that the author as HR manager for a British bank based in Singapore, the discourse outlines a background paper on Singapore for use in briefing expatriate managers who are being re-deployed to that country within the domain of employment relations.
The issues to be covered within this background paper include the general guiding philosophy – manpower planning, the role of employees, management & employers, trade unions and government within the manpower philosophical employment relation framework. 2.0 Employment Relations Abbott (2006, p. 188) observes that the concept of employment relations is conceptualised differently in different countries. For instance, he notes that in most America human resource management literature, the employment relations system refers to ‘ interactions that exist between individual employers and employees at the level of the workplace’ .
However, in regard to British HRM literature, the concept refers to ‘ interactions that can take place between the state, employer associations and organised labour’ . For the context of the discussion within this paper, the paper adopts conceptualisation fronted within British HRM literature that appreciates that employments relations take place within the narrowed focus/ micro-level as fronted in American HRM literature and at macro-level where there is the possibility of government intervention. Bray, Waring & Cooper (2011), identifies three critical philosophies in employment relations which include unitarism, pluralism and radicalism.
Abbott (2006, p. 191-197) identifies pluralism, unitarism and Marxism as the principal philosophies informing employment relations system of a country. Frege, Kelly & McGovern (2011, p. 210) notes that Marxism and Radicalism as one at the same thing. Kelly (2002, p. 69) indicates that depending on various factors such as vested interest, economic, political and social systems various interested entities such employers, employees, government and trade unions are likely to advance different position thereby giving rise to a particular employment relations system of a country. The overall anchoring of the pluralist view that conflict is inevitable (Abbott, 2006, p. 192-193). Pluralist relationship appreciates the fact that there are numerous vested players and thus there is a need to create a balance between labour and capital.
It is geared towards creating a balance between these competing interests so that not any of the interested parties have domination over the other (Budd Gomez & Meltz, 2004, p. 196). Cradden (2011, p. 10) observes that we can have adversarial or integrative pluralism with integrative having more positive attributes as compared to an adversarial one.
On the other hand, unitarism advocates for harmonious co-existence as a conflict between management and employee/ trade unions are seen as unnecessary and avoidable. As such cooperation is paramount within this domain (Leat, 2008, p. 12). Such views are theoretically anchored on views such as human relations theory and scientific management theory (Abbott, 2006, p. 192). Cradden (2011, p. 10) indicates that unitarism consists of deliberative, high commitment, bureaucratic & low commitment unitarism with the most outstanding being deliberative unitarism. The last is the Marxist/ radicalism that views a relationship where employers have a bearing over employees and thus, to counter the same there is a need for constant contestation (Leat, 2008, p. 14).
This is greatly supported by theories such as postmodernism, feminism and labour process theory (Abbott, 2006, p. 195-196)
Abbott, K. (2006). A review of employment relations theories and their application. Problems and Perspectives in Management, 1(2006), 187-199.
Almond, G. A. (1956). Comparative political systems. The Journal of politics, 18(03), 391-409.
Budd, J. W., Gomez, R., & Meltz, N. M. (2004). Why a balance is best: the pluralist industrial relations paradigm of balancing competing interests. Theoretical Perspectives on Work and the Employment Relationship, Champaign, IL: Industrial Relations Research Association, 195-227.
Cahyadi, G., Kursten, B., Weiss, M., & Yang, G. (2004). Singapore’s economic transformation. Global Ur-ban Development.
Central Intelligence Agency (26 February, 2014). The World Factbook - East and Southeast Asia: Singapore. Retrieved on 12 March 2014 from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sn.html.
Cradden, C. (2011). UNITARISM, PLURALISM, RADICALISM... AND THE REST?. Available at: http://www.unige.ch/ses/socio/publications/dernierespublications/sociograph10-1/sociograph_working_paper_7.pdf.
Finnemore, M., & Sikkink, K. (1998). International norm dynamics and political change. International organization, 52(4), 887-917.
Frege, C., Kelly, J., & McGovern, P. (2011). Richard Hyman: marxism, trade unionism and comparative employment relations. British journal of industrial relations, 49(2), 209-230.
Jost, J. T., Federico, C. M., & Napier, J. L. (2009). Political ideology: Its structure, functions, and elective affinities. Annual review of psychology, 60, 307-337.
Kelly, J. E. (2002). Industrial relations: approaches to industrial relations and trends in national systems. London: Routledge .
Lam, N. M. (2000). Government intervention in the economy: a comparative analysis of Singapore and Hong Kong. Public Administration and Development, 20(5), 397-421.
Leat, M. (2008). Employee Relations. Available at: https://www.ebsglobal.net/documents/course-tasters/english/pdf/h17er-bk-taster.pdf.
Leggett, C. (2005a). The fourth transformation of Singapore’s industrial relations. Reworking, 347.
Leggett, C. J. (2005b). Strategic Choice and the Transformations of Singapore’s Industrial Relations (Doctoral dissertation, Griffith University).
Venu Menon, S. (2007). Governance, leadership and economic growth in Singapore. Available at: http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/4741/1/MPRA_paper_4741.pdf.