Employment Relationship


A trade union is an institutional representative of workers’ interest that unites the collective voice of individual employees for the enhancement of working conditions of individual or group of workers (Chew & Chew 1995). The biggest trade union in Singapore is the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) (Ng & Warner 1998), and in China, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) (Lee 1986). Although the trade unions in both countries have some similarities, there are significant differences that led me to disagree with Barr (2000) as I believe that the NTUC is considered a trade union. However I concur with Taylor and Li (2007) that the ACFTU can only be truly considered a trade union only if there are changes.

The Two Unions

The NTUC was set up in 1961 by the non-communists group of the Singapore Association of Trade Unions and has been representing the labour movement in Singapore since 1965 (Chew 1991). The NTUC Currently the NTUC has a total of 60 affiliated unions with a membership of about 540,000 workers (NTUC 2009). Its objective is to contribute to the growth of the economy by cooperating with the government and management to create a peaceful working environment thus attracting investors and creating more jobs (Tan 2007).

The ACFTU was originally formed in 1925 but its role then was as a “transmission belt” between the government and the masses and that it was largely doing administrative work rather than representing workers (Zhu & Warner 2000). However, the ACFTU was suspended in 1967 due to the ‘Cultural Revolution’ in China at that time, and it was only re-instated in 1978 (Ng & Warner 1998). Also since then the ACFTU is virtually the only legitimate workers’ organisation in China (Lee 1986). Currently the ACFTU has at least 1.324 million affiliated unions and a total of more than 169.94 millions members (ACFTU 2007). Its objective is to represent and promote the interest of its members while adapting them to meet state...