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Industrial Relations

The Industrial Relations Act is an Act to provide for the regulation of the relations of employers and employees and the prevention and settlement of trade disputes by collective bargaining, conciliation, arbitration, and tripartite mediation of individual disputes.

Recognition of a trade union

Before a trade union (TU) can represent its members in collective bargaining, it must be accorded recognition by the employer. The union recognition process is provided in the Industrial Relations (Recognition of a Trade Union of Employees) Regulations.

Tripartite Advisory on Industrial Relations (IR) Practice

In an increasingly competitive environment, management and union must be committed to working together to overcome challenges, resolve differences amicably, and build a strong labour management relationship based on mutual trust and respect. This is a key factor towards building harmonious workplaces, strengthening tripartite collaboration and enhancing Singapore’s economic competitiveness and social progress for the benefit of both employers and workers. The Tripartite Advisory on Industrial Relations Practice outlines the key principles and practices as a guide and reference to help all IR practitioners to achieve the above objectives.

Collective bargaining process

Once a TU is given recognition, it becomes the sole negotiating body for the employees it represents and collectively negotiate with the employer on the employment terms and benefits.

The TU may serve on the employer a notice inviting the latter to negotiate on industrial matters such as commence negotiations for a Collective Agreement. Likewise, the employer may serve such a notice to the TU to negotiate on industrial matters. The receiving party is required to accept the invitation to negotiate. Negotiations should commence as early as possible.

A Collective Agreement is an agreement between an employer and the TU on the employees’ terms and conditions of employment. The Collective Agreement is valid for a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 3 years. Once a Collective Agreement is signed, it must be filed with the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC) for certification within one week from the date of signing.


If both parties are unable to reach an agreement at the company’s level on a Collective Agreement or other industrial matters, the TU or employer can seek conciliation assistance from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) by filing a notification online via our Industrial Relations Online (IROL) service.

MOM will proceed to arrange a conciliation meeting within 14 days upon receiving the notification filed and invite both parties for a meeting to resolve the dispute amicably.

Referral of Dispute to Industrial Arbitration Court

If a trade dispute cannot be resolved after conciliation at MOM, the trade dispute may be referred to the IAC for arbitration. Escalating a trade dispute to the IAC should be a last resort for consideration when all attempts to reach an agreement through conciliation have failed.

TUs and employers can refer to IAC website to find out more details on the requirements for filing a Collective Agreement, the types of trade disputes and different channels for filing an application to the IAC.

Appeal against Unfair Dismissal

An employee who considers themselves dismissed without just cause or excuse by their employer, may make a representation through their TU to the Minister for Manpower to be reinstated in their former employment within one month of the dismissal.

Collective and Limited Representation of Executive Employees

Since 1 April 2015, the Industrial Relations Act has been amended to allow a rank-and-file TU to seek recognition from employers to collectively represent executive employees. Employers and TUs may refer to the Tripartite Guidelines on Extending the Scope of Union Representation for Executives to discuss the representation of executives on a collective basis. Upon agreement, employers can accord formal recognition to the TU.

Executive employees who are ineligible for collective representation by a recognised TU can seek limited representation by a recognised TU on an individual basis for the following five issues:

  • Dismissal appeal
  • Retrenchment benefit
  • Breach of employment contract
  • Victimisation
  • Re-employment

Recognised TUs and employers may refer to the revised Tripartite Guidelines on Expanding the Scope of Limited Representation for Executives to discuss the limited representation of executive employees.

In the event of a dispute on the eligibility of executive employees for collective or limited representation, the employer or TU can seek conciliation assistance from MOM.

An executive refers to an employee who is employed in a managerial or executive position by his employer.