New guidelines have been announced in Singapore to clarify the scope of union representation, ahead of the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) that will take effect on April 1, 2015.

In 2013, a tripartite workgroup, comprising representatives from Ministry of Manpower, Singapore National Employers Federation, and National Trade Union Congress (NTUC), was formed to update the IRA and reflect the changing workforce profile and workplace norms.

The workgroup has now released fresh guidelines on the eligibility for representation in unions.

Senior management and certain categories of executives will not be allowed to be collectively represented by unions, given the possibility of a conflict of interest and the undermining of management.

Broadly, the exemptions refer to an employee who:

  1. Is in a senior management position, and has control and supervision of major business operations, including leadership to other employees
  2. Has decision making powers on industrial matters such as employment, promotions, and termination
  3. Represents the employer in union negotiations on industrial matters
  4. Has access to relevant confidential information, such as budget and finances, salaries, and empoyees' personal records
  5. Is in a role that may give rise to a conflict of interest.

The guidelines suggested options for representation of executives, stressing that employers and unions will need to work out a suitable arrangement based on their specific organisational circumstances and structure.

"Employers and unions may draw up MoUs (memorandum of understanding) on classes of executives that can be represented by the unions," it stated.

These MoUs may include details such as the classes of executives eligible for representation; sharing of information between employers and unions; and, a provision to refer disputes to Ministry of Manpower, in cases where they cannot be resolved at the organisational level.  

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