Industrial Arbitration Court
Establishment of the Industrial Arbitration Court
The Industrial Arbitration Court (“IAC”) was established in 1960 with the passage of the Industrial Relations Ordinance (which was later replaced by the Industrial Relations Act (Cap 136, 2004 Rev Ed)). The court was set up to deal with matters concerning employer-employee relations and the settlement of trade disputes.
The IAC’s functions include the registration and certification of collective agreements, resolution of industrial disputes through the making of Court awards or Referee decisions, the interpretation and enforcement of awards, setting aside or variation of awards or collective agreements, mediation and providing advisory services on matters pertaining to industrial relations.
The IAC is presided over by the President and Deputy President, who are appointed by the President of Singapore on the advice of the Prime Minister. The IAC has two panels: an Employer panel and an Employee panel. The panels are appointed by the Minister for Manpower, on the recommendation of the Singapore National Employers’ Federation and the National Trades Union Congress. The IAC is also supported by a Registrar and other officers.
Dispute Resolution Process
Where a dispute arises between an employment and a union, they are encouraged to resolve the dispute through discussion and negotiations. If this fails, they are encouraged to seek the assistance of the Ministry of Manpower to conciliate between the parties. Where these efforts are unsuccessful, the dispute may be referred to the IAC.
When the IAC first receives an application for arbitration, the Registrar calls for a meeting with the employer and the union concerned. Subject to the agreement of the parties, the Registrar may call for further meetings to help the parties resolve the dispute amicably through mediation. If the parties are able to resolve the dispute amicably, the party or parties who submitted the application to the IAC is asked to withdraw the application, and the case is closed.
If the parties are unable to resolve the dispute, the Registrar will arrange for the dispute to be heard by the Court. The Industrial Relations Act provides for the IAC to hear, inquire into and investigate disputes submitted to the IAC, and to settle the dispute by arbitration. For the majority of dispute hearings, a Court is constituted comprising the President of the IAC and a member each from the employee and employer panels. The members are nominated by the two parties to the dispute (the union and the employer). Depending on the nature of the dispute, a Court may be constituted by the President alone.