LABOUR UNREST UNDERDEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA: AN APPRAISAL OF 2000-2013

Abstract

One of the major impediments to development in Nigeria is labour unrest. This is given the fact that no Nation can develop without human resource because they constitute and play very significant role in Nation building and development. The Nigerian case has been so pervasive that labour unrest extends to every situation when the Government takes major public policy decision that seems to affect the labour union and generally the masses without due consultation of labour statement; especially that which affects the social life of their member and welfare packages of the entire masses, specifically that which affect the socio-economic and political aspects, hence Nigerian development remain dependent.
Thus in our attempt to analyze and investigate this problem, we use the relative deprivation theory for theoretical framework while documentary research method was also used for gathering and analyzing data.
This research work, labour unrest and underdevelopment in Nigeria: An appraisal from 2000 – 2013 is being carried out for the purpose of assessing various means of curbing labour unrest. This study is however divided into five chapters, chapter one deals with the background of study, statement of the problem, objective of the study, significance of the study, hypotheses, method of data collection and analysis, scope and limitation of the study and definition of terms. Chapter two contains the public policies and labour unrest in Nigeria. In chapter three, we looked at labour unrest and underdevelopment. Chapter four of this work dealt with the strategies for curbing labour unrest in Nigeria. Finally, chapter five which is the last chapter efforts shifted to the summary, conclusion, recommendation and bibliography. However this work is very incisive, interesting and educating.

Chapter One: Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

The organized labour union movements in Nigeria dates back to 1912, Nigeria workers like their counterparts in other developing countries have witnessed fundamental changes in their condition over time. To a large extent, labour unions have played significant roles in the transformation of most developing countries.

Government is the largest employer of labour with private individual employing a minimal proportion of the working class (Fajara, 2000). In Nigeria, labour unions has become a very important agents of socio-economic transformation and class struggle (Aremu, 1996, Akinyanju, 1997) which began from the colonial struggle and continued till in the post independence era. In the later, labour unions played significant role in the struggle against dictatorial military rule in the country. In the same vein under the current civilian dispensation, labour unions is at the forefront of the struggle against unpopular government policies such as deregulation of the oil sector, retrenchment of workers and refusal to honor agreement on wage increase.

Nigeria is a third world country that comprise of labour unions spread across the country. The unions are structured into industrial line and as at 1977 precisely 42 labour unions were recognized by the Government and allowed to contribute enormously to the development of economic, social, cultural and even political system of the state. The role of these labour unions is usually regarded as people oriented because it tends to oppose Governmental policies and decisions not favorable to the masses through strike actions, protest etc popularly called labour unrest.

However, in a multi ethnic democratic country like Nigeria, there exist different labour unions across the country. But for the purpose of this study, we shall dwell more on those labour unions that have in one way or the other succeeded in influencing Governmental policies and decision. In the past such as: National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAU) Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ).

In 1978 however, it’s important to note that Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) was formed and inaugurated and the 42 industrial unions became affiliates of the Nigerian Labour Congress with a legal backing of the trade union amendment Decree 22 of 1978. Again in 1989 the trade union was restructured to become 29 affiliates unions to the Nigerian Labour Congress after their role against the anti-people Structural Adjustment programme of General Babangida.

Consequently, in 2005, the trade union act section 33 (2) was amended by substituting the phrase “central labour organization” for the phrase “federation of trade unions” the intention was to weaken the cohesion of the trade unions.

Since time immemorial labour unrest has always occupied the front burner of criticisms and oppositions in Nigeria whenever the Government through its policies makes life unbearable for its citizens.

Nevertheless most activities of the organized labour in the form of unrest to attack Government policies and programmes often result in underdevelopment and grounding of the economy culminating in loss of revenues and sundry economic activities. However, it is not implausible to aver that one of the greatest problems that result to labour unrest and consequently underdevelopment is Governmental policies and programmes on certain National issues especially those that affect the labour unions across the Nation.
In the light of these, this research work is inspired out of the burning desire to interrogate the motive of the labour union in their activities through protest, strikes etc against certain Governmental policies and programmes through a critical analysis and alternative roadmap to labour unrest with a view to averting resultant and decay in Nigeria.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Labour unrest remain one of the most glaring problems hindering the development of this great nation especially when Government tends to implement policies and programmes not favorably for the majority of the people in the society (country). This is because the labour unions, using the NLC (Nigeria Labour Congress) ad TUC (Trade Union Congress) as the umbrella bodies tends to constitute parts of organization or union that keeps the country going through their daily activities. In order words, when there is labour unrest, the economy of the country tends to be disrupted and destabilized which is why whenever Government policies and programmes that are not favorable to labour are formulated, there is usually a mass protest and strikes that dislocates the economy as the civil servants who are very significant to the Government of the day also partake in the strike and protest by not going to work.

However, the study shall make a critical appraisal of some of the major cases (protest and strikes) by labour unions and also investigate their modus operandi, so as to River at the objectives of the study, in the quest of doing this, the following research question would serve as a guide.

i. Are public policies responsible for labour unrest in Nigeria?
ii. Is underdevelopment a consequent of labour unrest in Nigeria?
iii. Can dialogue and collective bargaining curb labour unrest in Nigeria?

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The broad objective of the study is to assess the consequences of labour unrest on Nigeria’s development. Thus the specific objectives of the study are:
(i) To ascertain if public policies are responsible for labour unrest in Nigeria.
(ii) To determine if underdevelopment is a consequence of labour unrest in Nigeria.
(iii) To discover if dialogue and collective bargaining can curb labour union in Nigeria

1.4 Literature Review

The literature review of this work is based on 2 concepts via-a-viz labour unrest and underdevelopment.
These concepts are social science concepts which of course lack clearly definite definition hence scholars see it from their own view point and encapsulated.

Firstly labour union according to Fagane (2009) is any combination whether temporary or permanent. According to him, its principal objectives are the regulation of the relationship between work-men and workmen or between masters and masters or the imposing of restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business and also the provision and benefits of members.

However, labour union is important to note are the main power resource of working people. The power in this collectivity of workers tends to promote the resolution of a variety of problems faced by the workforce which help in Nation building.

Labour unrest according to Amesen Eric (2007) is a term used by employers or those generally in the business community to describe organizing the strike actions undertaken by labour unions especially where labour disputes become violent or where industrial actions which members of a workforce obstruct the normal process of business and generate industrial unrest are essayed.

Labour unrest could be defined as the disruption of the day to day labour activities that generates income both local and international In the country and makes the economy stagnant for a while due to the strike action and protest by labour unions in the process of facilitating the interest of their members endangered by Government policies unfavorable to them (Labour Unions). However unrest in organization and industrial establishment can be disruptive when the organizational goals are stressful to the health of industrial workers.

Again labour unrest can be defined as the inability of members in a role set are unable to reach an agreement on an issue concerned with the objective of interaction. There is hardly any gainsaying the fact that industrial conflict on labour unrest are realities of any economic system where workers and the management interact. Labour unrest seems to be more pronounced in public sector organization most especially. Anugwom and Ukaegbu (1998) argue that public union have substantial market power and are usually in a position to play a key role in the political process and its this unique positioning that make them conflict prone.

Dimension of Labour Unrest Labour unrest is so closely related to loss of peace because like Ofube (2001) argues that unrest (conflict) is as central to life, because like we know, life without conflict is no life. Therefore labour unrest is not abnormal in any organization (private or public). Hence in the public sector, workers are always disenchanted with the Government over its handling of workers welfare and the general penury facing the nation.

Anugwom (1997) views the dimension of labour unrest as a situation when the economic depression in the country as exposing workers to a high level of economic hardship. He further contends that the public sector workers especially have been faced by given economic realities and may have seen unrest as a way of breaking loose from the shackles of economic deprivation.

Okechukwu R. O. (2002) expresses his view in the labour unrest in Nigeria especially the June 2000 strike and argued that some Government policies that are unfavorable to the workers tend to generate the often strike action and protest leading to labour unrest.

Finally it’s important to understand here that when Government formulates policies not favorable to labour unions, they adopt some strategies or dimensions leading to labour unrest in the country.

(a) Labour Unions threaten the Government by issuing ultimatum within which its demand will be met. Thus failure of the Government to oblige them may elicit strike or demonstration thereby leading to labour unrest.

(b) Propaganda using mass media and handbills is another dimension of labour unrest; here workers all over the federation are notified on the latest development and even the public.

(c) Employment of protests, strikes and demonstrations is another dimension of labour unrest which could be peaceful or violent.

In economics underdevelopment is when resources are not used to their full socio-economic potential, with the result that local development is slower in most cases than it should be. more so, it results from the complex interplay of internal and external factors that allow less developed countries only a lop-sided development progression.