Singapore Government Press Release

Media Relations Division, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,

MITA Building, 140 Hill Street, 2nd Storey, Singapore 179369

Tel: 6837-9666




Improving Labour Relations in Singapore Airlines (SIA)


The Cabinet has discussed the state of industrial relations in Singapore and in particular the impact of recent developments in the Air Line Pilots Association - Singapore (Alpa-S) union on the aviation industry and other unions.

Aviation is a key industry creating jobs and economic growth. Considerable investments have been made to build up our air hub status and the air travel sector: $3.9 billion on Changi Airport, and an additional $2.6 billion planned for current projects. Changi Airport provides jobs for 35,000 permanent workers, and 55,000 contract or temporary workers. SIA employs 12,000 staff; of which about 1,700 are pilots (1,000 local, 400 PR and 300 foreign) and 6,400 are cabin crew.

Our economy, especially the travel sector, had been under severe stress from terrorism and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). These threats still exist. Further, low cost airlines, newer airplanes with longer flight capabilities and other airports in neighbouring countries will challenge SIA and Changi Airport’s position as a premier air-hub.

We cannot allow confrontational industrial relations to add to the problems of SIA, Changi Airport and our travel industry. It will put jobs and Singapore’s economy at risk.

The relationship between SIA management and their pilots’ union has been troubled. They have had repeated episodes of protracted negotiations, many resulting in deadlock. The latest settlement could only be reached after mediation by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Industrial Arbitration Court. Even after agreeing to this settlement, 55% of members subsequently voted out the negotiating team. We cannot afford a continuation of these dysfunctional relations marked by confrontations and stand-offs.

To prevent another such cycle of acrimony, MOM will amend the Trade Unions Act to ensure that the rules of registered trade unions enable executive committees to negotiate and commit to collective agreements without the need for formal ratification by the general membership or the branches. This practice of obtaining ratification from the general membership is unique to Alpa-S's constitution. MOM will also rescind approval for the two non-citizens currently on the Executive Committee of Alpa-S.

These changes of themselves will not produce good industrial relations. For this to happen, SIA management and pilots must put the past behind them and start anew. They must break away from their old attitudes and move towards consensus and cooperation. SIA must improve its human resource management. Management must forge a common understanding with its employees on the way ahead and explain its plans to grow the company. SIA will have to pay competitive wages to retain the services of their good staff and gain the loyalty of its pilots and other staff. Employees will be incentivised to be active partners of change if they can share in the rewards when the company performs well. Such changes will raise morale and increase cooperation. MOM will help SIA and its unions including Alpa-S to achieve flexible and responsive wage systems that adequately reward and motivate good performers.

Our harmonious industrial climate based on tripartite partnership is a key pillar for our economic and social progress. It has enabled us to make necessary changes, like painful wage and CPF cuts, to move our economy forward. The Government will not allow any group to undermine this vital factor in securing good jobs and economic growth for our people.



30 November 2003


Summary Table on Disputes Referred for Conciliation and Other Significant Events

Involving The Air Line Pilots Association – Singapore (ALPA-S)


Year / Date

Number of Dispute(s)

Nature of Dispute




Collective Agreement between the Singapore Airlines Pilots Association (SIAPA) and SIA Management

[Note: SIAPA is the predecessor pilot union to Alpa-S]


Negotiations between SIAPA and the SIA management broke down. Dispute was brought before the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC) in Nov 1980.

Despite the IAC having cognizance of the dispute, SIAPA on 23 Nov 1980 initiated an illegal work to rule action, resulting in delays in some SIA flights. Other incidents of illegal industrial action were also reported up to 26 Nov 1980.

On 28 Nov 1980, the Registrar of Trade Unions served a notice on SIAPA to show cause as to why it should not be deregistered. Between 15 to 17 Dec 1980, 15 members of SIAPA Exco were charged for commencing illegal industrial action and were convicted.

26 Feb 1981

SIAPA was deregistered

May 1981

Alpa-S registered



Effective Date of Increment

Dispute was resolved through conciliation by the Ministry of Labour (MOL).



1) Landing Incident

2) Revision of Meal


3) Collective Agreement

Disputes were resolved through conciliation by MOL.



1) Pro-rating of bonus & repayment for training costs

2) Salary range

3) Minimum rest periods & profit sharing formula


Disputes were resolved through conciliation by MOL.



  1. Travel Benefits for Captains and their dependants

Dispute was brought before the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC). The IAC ruled that the company had valid commercial reasons for introducing the restriction and that the change was not for the purpose of cutting down staff benefits.



  1. Grievance Case involving a member

Dispute was resolved through conciliation by MOL.





  1. Minimum rest periods following Flight Duty Period (FDP)

  3. Non-granting of "Free of Duty Period"
  4. Interpretation of Collective Agreement (CA) – Extension of Flying Duty

Case was referred to the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC). Before the case was heard by the IAC, management informed the IAC that the parties had agreed to negotiate the minimum rest period as an item under the new Collective Agreement.

The two disputes were resolved through conciliation by MOL.



  1. Salary Scales & Flight Time Limitation for New Aircraft B 777

The two parties were able to resolve the dispute when the management made a concession to improve the overall package.



  1. Flight Time Limitation

Dispute was resolved through conciliation by MOL.




  1. Overseas Basing Scheme (OBS) – expatriate pilots appointed by off-shore SIA subsidiary.

  3. Dismissal appeal in respect of a member.

The union subsequently dropped the matter.







Appeal was rejected by Minister for Labour on the ground that the dismissal was not without just cause and excuse.





  1. Service Increment & Profit Sharing Formula

  3. Flight time limitations
  4. Crew Operating Patterns

Prior to referring the dispute to the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC), the SIA management offered the union a material improvement to their earlier proposal. Matter settled without IAC hearing.



The 2 disputes were settled through conciliation by Ministry of Manpower (MOM).





  1. Threat of Industrial Action






  3. Rest Period for 3-Pilot Operation


  • Management and Ex-Co had concluded negotiations on their 1995 Collective Agreement (CA). However, the In-Principle Agreement between the two parties was rejected by the Alpa-S membership during an EGM to ratify the In-Principle Agreement.
  • At a hearing before the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC), the court granted the two parties a period of 2 months to attempt to resolve their differences. The dispute was eventually resolved out of court.


The case was referred to arbitration when the dispute reached a deadlock at conciliation. The court eventually ruled in favour of the management.



Sep 2001

EGM – Re-election of Ex-Co





  1. Provision for seats in Business Class – the ‘Space Bed’ saga
  2. Dismissal appeal for 2 pilots involved in SQ 006 accident

  • Dispute over the pilots’ entitlement to Business Class seat for their in-flight rest.



  • Union withdrew dismissal appeal for a pilot. For the other pilot, the union is trying to resolve the appeal with SIA management.



  1. Dispute on Wage-Cut Package

  • The dispute centered on (a) the extent of basic wage cut to be implemented for Captains and First Officers; (b) whether or not such cut should be restored; (c) the extent of retrenchment to be effected; (d) Employment of Overseas Based Scheme (OBS) pilots. The Union also wanted to discuss the extent of retrenchment to be effected.
  • The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was effected between Alpa-S and SIA management through an Order by the IAC.

17 Nov 2003

Vote of no-confidence in Ex-Co.



Prepared by : Ministry Of Manpower