Industrial Conflicts in Nigeria

Industrial Conflicts in Nigeria

THE ORIGIN OF TRADE UNIONISM IN NIGERIA:

There was a general belief that trade unions in the former British Colonial including Nigeria were not natural development as in the metropolitan countries, but rather a creature of the British Colonial office. Inspite of this belief, there is no evidence to show that the British deliberately imported trade unionism into Nigeria for there had been in Lagos in 1893 the existence of a mechanics mutual and providence and improvement Association and in 1911, the Lagos Merchantile Clerks Association was formed to safe guard the interest of clerks working for.

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The merchanctile house in Lagos. In fact, group activities of this sort are strongly rooted in the Tribal Structure and organisation of hundreds, blacksmiths, carvers and weavers.

“Yasufu (1962) noted that the organisation of persons engaged in craft or trade is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. Their main function was to organise material aid in cases of difficulties and to regulate trade practises”8

Then Fasoyin maintained that the presence of an organisation of these craft men does necessarily mean an emergence of trade. In his words;

“Perhaps an importance explanation soon to be developed for why the early guilds and associations cannot be properly regarded as trade unions was the virtual absence of wage employment”. 9 He continued;

“By the same token most of the problems that the trade unions of today have to deal with were unknown in the early stage of colonial Africa”10

Available evidence showed that the first attempt made by workers to assort their right was in 1877. This was when a protest was launched against arbitrary changes in public working hours by the artisan workman in the works department. They embarked on a three days strike after which the then governor compromised has position and gave up threat of dismissal of the workers by agreeing to negotiate with workers.

The first formal union to develop in Nigeria was the civil service union founded in1912. Others which followed suits were the Nigeria were the Nigerian Railway. Native staff union in 1919, and the Nigeria union of teachers which was formed in 1931. The formal control of unionism ordinance came in 1938 when the trade union ordinance was passed. The ordinance had the effect of restricting the growth of mushroom-unions as the ordinance made it compulsory for union to be registered before it can go into negotiation with an employer on behalf of its members.

 GROWTH OF UNIONS:

Once the legal basis for unions has been established there major event help in the repaid growth of trade unionism in that they gave a sense of oneness to all the workers and encourage them to act closer. The first of these was the grant of a cost of living allowance (COLA) to government employees in 1942. The second was the general strike of 1945 and the third was the Enugu shooting in 1949.

CASES OF INDUSTRIAL CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA

There are three major cases of conflicts that equally helped in the rapid growth of trade unionism in Nigeria in that they gave a sense of oneness to all the workers. These events were the cost of Living Allowance (COLA) of 1942, the general strike of 1945 and the Enugu shooting incident of 1949.

THE COLA UNION:

The prospective of the Second World War by the British and the involvement of the colonies in the war effort had created economic difficulties in these territories. This led the Railway union to demand for a cost of Living award 1941. The demand was turned down and crisis ensured. The government then set up a committee called the Bridges Committee” to look into the matters. The committee recommended to the government to grant a cost of Living Allowance to all its members.

As a result, the total number of unions registered jumped or increased from 36 in 1941 to 77 in 1942. Unfortunately, after expanding their worth a good number of them dried and a lot of them dissolved after they had received their aim.

 THE GENERAL STRIKE OF 1945

At the end of the war, the workers expected a charge in their economic fortunes but this was not realized. Prices of commodities were high and the economic conditions of the time were so hard that the workers demanded an increase in the cost of living awards of 1942. Government refusal resulted in a general strike which tasted for forty five (45) days. As a result of the strike all the economic activities were paralysed. The government were forced to appoint the Tudor Davis commission and on the basis of the commission’s recommendations. The government awarded another substantial increase in the local based on the cost of Living. These economic gains made the workers to realize that unification was the best for achievement of their interest.

 THE ENUGU SHOOTING OF 1949:

Enugu shooting incident of 1949 also contributed in a rapid development of trade unionism in Nigeria. The circumstance leading to the tragic incident dated bank to 1944 when the colliery management were opposed to the existence of militant trade union in colliery.

This led to a number of disturbances in the colliery which resulted into strike that their grievances, the management dismissed the union leaders and on the 18th of November,1949 a struggle ensured between the policemen posted there and the miners and about twenty one (21) of the defenseless miners were killed, and many others were wounded.

 FORMS OF COLLECTIVE RELATIONS:

          The form of collective relations between the employer and the employee or their unions can be treated under the context of employment contract, collective bargaining process and joint consultation.

 EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT:

        The contract of employment is then first form of relationship between employer and the employee. The employment contract is a voluntary relationship which the parties may enter or agreed on terms. The contract is however subject to the general law of contract and the agreement is regarding as one, arrived at after bargaining. The terms and conditions of employment agreed upon are protected by the labour ac6t of 1974. The law also requlate the hours of work, annual holidays, payment of wages, compulsory grant of maternity leave for female workers.

The labour decree of 1974, provides that when a worker joins a company, the employer, must provide him not later than three months with certain particulars which include:

(1)             The name of the employer.

(2)             The name and address of the workers and the place and rate of his engagement.

(3)             The nature of the employment.

(4)             If the contract is fixed, it will stated i.e. the date when it will expire.

(5)             The appropriate period of notice to be given by the party wishing to determinate contract.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING PROCESS

          Collective bargaining has been defined as “Negotiations about working conditions and terms of employment between an employer, a group of employers’ or one or more representatives workers organisations on the other with a view to reading agreement”11

Collective bargaining has three broad objectives

(1)          Setting the terms of employment

(2)          Setting rules in the work place

(3)          Setting methods of setting disputes

ISSUES NEGOTIATED IN COLLECTIVE BARGAINING:

          The scope of issues on which the parties can negotiate is usually defined but this could shift in course of events. In Nigerian Industrial Relations system wage issues are predominate but issues such as social welfare and security are likely to overtake wages as time goes on.

NATURE AND CAUSES OF INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES:

The first major cause of conflict in an organisastion is the variance of objective of the worker or workers and the employer. According to Hicks and Curllet (1970);

“Conflict arises when inter dependent resources sharing units perceive that their goods are incompatible”12

According to Akerele (1975);

“Industrial conflict in Nigeria is rooted in wages and its related matters”13

Another cause of industrial conflicts or disputes is that the modern employment is carried out under fast changing conditions. The expectations of workers employer and the demand which they make upon each other are constantly disturbed and the ability and resourcefulness of both side adjust rapidly enough is far, and stretched ever to a breaking point in perpetuity.

Damachi U. G (1986) enumerated the causes of Industrial dispute as:

(1)             Dissatisfaction with working conditions.

(2)             Delay in payment of wages.

(3)             Unlawful dismissal of employees

(4)             Unemployment

(5)             Union over-protection or over indulgence of workers.

Daamchi maintained that;

“Some of the claims of workers, for instance bonus which leads to conflict or disputes if not met are extravagant if not outrageous”14

SETTLEMENT OF INDUSTRIAL CONFLICTS:

          The machinery for the settlement of labour conflicts in Nigeria are two folds, the Internal machinery that is collectively negotiated and an External machinery that is statutory and established by the state. The statutory machinery takes over where the Internal machinery fails.

EFFECTS OF INDUSTRIAL CONFLICT

        Some hold the belief that the effects of all conflicts are not all that devastating. Indeed, one view holds that participation in conflicts may have some statutory effects on productivity.

Hyman (1976) believed that;

“Such participation can raise workers morale, resulting in a spontaneous rise in a productivity, especially when the result of the disputes is positive.”15

Similar Conflict especially those resulting into strike in a developing country like Nigeria always have a dramatic effects on the public. Similar disputes which resulted into strike by large section of the banking industry and by the electricity workers have paralysed the nation economic activities.

Other latent and manifest effects of disputes are ;

(1)           Aggression

(2)           High costs of products

(3)           Unemployment

These notwithstanding, some still believed that one cannot draw up an exert account of losses arising from conflicts. “In the circumstances the judgement of most specialists is that economic consequences of disputes are under rated.”16

STATUTORY PROCEDURES FOR RESOLUTION OF DISPUTE/CONFLICTS:

          The statutory procedures for the resolution of disputes are contained in the trade disputes act of 1976.

Under the act of the parties having exhausted all available voluntary machinery for settling their disputes or conflicts and stating so in writing and areas on which they disagree, the minister of labour may take the following step:

(1)                         Industrial Arbitration Panel

(2)                         Conciliation

(3)                           National Industrial Court

(4)                         Board of Inquiry

As we shall see, a conflict need not to go through all the four stages.

—-This article is not complete———–This article is not complete————

This article was extracted from a Project Research Work Topic

A CRITICAL STUDY ON THE INDUSTRIAL CONFLICTS IN AN ORGANISATION”

(A CASE STUDY OF GUINESS (NIG.) PLC IKEJA LAGOS)

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Industrial Conflicts in Nigeria

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